(Genesis 3:15 & Matthew 1:21-23)
Come December each year the music of Christmas carols will be in the air in the public space. Carols such as “Silent Night, Away in A Manger and Mary’s Boy Child, O Holy Night,” would resonate and listeners sing along or play the words in their minds. They cannot but notice that the carols are all about a baby boy, a child and his mother. Some wonder and others ask “What is the relationship between a baby boy and its mother with Christmas?”
In church we specifically identify this child. He is Jesus the Christ and the mother is Mary. Ever wonder why we should commemorate his birthday and make a celebration of it even though his birth took place 21 centuries ago? What is the significance of the nativity or infancy of Jesus Christ and Mother Mary?
In Christian education for children Christmas is an important part of the curriculum. Children are told the story again and again. They sing the carols and know them by heart. They dramatise the story from different perspectives: “No Room in the Inn, While Shepherds Watched, Three Kings from the East,” are some of them. One of the “must-have” of the season is the Christmas Tableau depicting the stable and baby Jesus in the manger surrounded by animals. Why does the church with the help of the calendar and the business public want to high light the birthday of baby Jesus?
The business world makes money out of the season. The calendar states a fact of history that has temporal meaning. The church proclaims good news that has eternal significance. This story if understood well has personal benefit. If communicated widely it blesses communities. One carol says “Joy to the World the Lord has come!” There is a joyous message for the world. It suggests that Christmas is connected to God. That means baby Jesus is connected to God. Long time ago God came into the world as a baby! Was that a providential plan of God?
1. The Providence of God (Genesis 22:1-14)
“Jehovah Jireh,” means “God Provides.” It has often been understood that the providence of God means that God would take care of our material needs. While in actual fact it means more or deeper than that. It actually means that God would take care of our salvation. That God would ensure that we are safe and secure for now and eternity. This idea originated from an event in Abraham’s life.
God promised Abraham that he would give him a son. When Issac his promised son was still a child God asked Abraham to offer him up as a sacrifice. In obedience to God Abraham took his son Issac with him to the mountain to be sacrificed. Issac knew that they were going to make a sacrifice, not knowing that he was to be that sacrificial offering. Innocently he asked his father Abraham, “We are carrying wood but where is the lamb for sacrifice?” Abraham replied, “God himself will provide a lamb.”
On the mountain of sacrifice, Abraham laid Issac on a rock and readied himself to do his obedient duty. At that critical moment, the Lord called out to Abraham to refrain from sacrificing his son Issac. Looking away from Issac Abraham saw a ram caught in a thicket. That ram was offered as a sacrifice to God instead of Issac his promised son.
Issac would never forget that he was meant to die. He would understand the meaning of providence. He did not die because a ram died on his behalf. It was God who provided that ram long before they got up the mountain. On that journey up the mountain neither Abraham nor Issac did foresee the turn of events. God saw and planned it all from a distance, in time and space.
“Providence” is made up of two words: “Pro” and “video.” They mean “before” and “view.” Before we arrive at a place and at a time of need, God has on all accounts seen that situation. He made every provision for that future need. We see that in the life of Issac. He was destined to die. His death was averted. A ram took his place. It is also true for all the people of the world and that include us. This story has a spiritual dimension.
2. God’s Providence Includes Us (Genesis 3:15)
Yes, all the people of the world are destined to die. We cannot avoid meeting death but have to face it squarely. Death may come by way of illness, accident, wars, disasters, negligence or rage. Human mortality began in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve’s immortality came to an end because of their disobedience to God’s commandment. We inherited their characteristics and are therefore mortals – we die.
God missed Adam and Eve after they committed the sin of disobedience in the Garden of Eden. He searched and called for them. Adam and Eve avoided God by hiding. When he found them, God knew they had disobeyed his commandment. Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent for deceiving her. Their act of disobedience had serious repercussions on their lives and the whole of creation.
Adam and Eve would face physical death. Spiritually their relationship with God had been severed. All of humanity would inherit the characteristics of Adam and face consequential death and separation from God. The beautiful world would decline instead of becoming a better place. As much as death includes everyone, God’s Providence also includes us all. God’s plan of rescue and restoration for the world is found in his address to the serpent in Genesis 3:15 : –
And I will put enmity between you and the woman,
And between your offspring and hers;
He will crush your head,
and you will strike His heel. (Genesis 3:15)
This verse is a prophetic declaration. It proclaimed that God would correct the damage the serpent had caused in the world. He would give a woman and her child a key role in his providential plan. The child and the followers of the serpent would be in conflict. In that struggle the child of the woman would destroy the serpent (crush your head). In the process the child would be killed (you will strike his heel). This verse points to a time in the future when God’s plan to save the world would take place. It was the first good news after the Adam’s fall in the garden.
3. God’s Promise Fulfilled (Matthew 1:21-23)
At the right time in history God executed his plan to save mankind from the power of sin and death. In ancient times Israel had been invaded by the Assyrians and Babylonians. Twenty-one centuries ago it was colonized again by the Romans.
One glorious starry night in the hills of Judea during the reign of Caesar Augustus, an angelic choir appeared before some shepherds. It announced the birth of a baby, born to be a Saviour. They were told it took place in the City of David, Bethlehem (Luke 2:11). The shepherds set out together to verify the matter and found that it was true as the angels said.
Months earlier the angel Gabriel had appeared before Virgin Mary. She was told that she would bear a child and give birth to a son. She should name him Jesus (Luke 1:30-31).
It was Matthew who explained the significance of the birth of Jesus Christ. He recorded: She will give birth to a son, and you will give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21-23).
What followed in Matthew’s account was even more enlightening. He said: All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – which means, “God with us.”
Plainly said, the birth of Jesus Christ was really God the Creator entering the created world. God has come to live among the ones he created.
4. Implication and Application
It now dawned on us that when Christmas comes by it is not just celebrating the birth of Mary’s boy child Jesus. It is about God entering human history. God has become Man. That is the reason Mary’s boy child was also named “Immanuel” – God with us! But why? what for?
God made a perfect world and a perfect man Adam. But Adam failed and the world with him. Adam’s life was shortened and so are ours. He was separated from God and so are we. So, goes the saying, “In Adam all die!.”
God himself in Christ became a man, lived as a man and died as a man but was without sin. Jesus Christ is both God and Man. That is “Immanuel – God with us.” The prophet Ezekiel said: The soul who sins is the one who will die (Ezekiel 18:4).” The first Adam died because he sinned. Christ the second Adam died because we sinned. Jesus Christ the sinless one carried our sins and died on the cross for us. He died settling the price of sin for us. That event fulfilled the promise we received from Genesis 3:15. But three days later he came alive again.
We should die for our sins but Jesus Christ died for us so that we might live. That is Jesus – for he shall save his people from their sins. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).” While “in Adam all die, in Christ all will be made alive (1 Cor. 15:22).
At Christmas, every year we celebrate the Providence of God. God had put in place a plan to save his creation from the very beginning in Genesis. As God had provided a lamb to die for Issac He had had provided Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the world. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that who ever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
God’s plan for salvation includes each and everyone of us. God so loved me that he gave his one and only Son, so that I who believe in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Is Jesus Christ your Lord and Saviour? Should you accept and believe in Him this will be a meaningful and wonderful Christmas!
When we celebrate Christmas we celebrate the Providence of God – God provided a plan to save us from our sins through Jesus Christ!