Only by recognizing the great doctrines of the Christian faith inherent in the Christmas story can we really celebrate and appreciate the significance of the event. Take these doctrines to heart and Christmas assumes its real meaning. Ignore them and you have merely another holiday.

Standing at the forefront is the Incarnation, the fact that God came into the world in human form, as Emmanuel, “God with us.” Jesus Christ the incarnate God in the subsequent years of his life on earth demonstrated this marvelous truth for all to see.

To the questioning Philip he said, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father.… Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works” (John 14:9, 10, RSV).

The Christmas story not only proclaims the Incarnation; it also tells how God descended from heaven to earth and came into time as we know it. Mary “was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:18b). Luke records that when the angel visited her to tell her that she would bear a son, she asked, “How can this be, since I have no husband? The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born of you will be called holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:34, 35).

The Virgin Birth is a part of the Christmas story, a wonderful part, a beautiful part. How like our God to perform his wonders in a supernatural way! One of the first lessons a Christian should learn is that “with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37), an affirmation made by the angel with reference to the Virgin Birth.

Not only does the Christmas story tell us of the Incarnation and the Virgin Birth; it also declares the purpose of Christ’s coming. To Joseph the angel said: “You shall call his name Jesus [Saviour], for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21); and to the fearful shepherds he said, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10, 11).

The Atonement is God’s means for dealing with the guilt and penalty of sin and makes possible the “good news,” the Gospel. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world for the specific purpose of saving sinners. This good news is relevant for men of all generations. It is utterly relevant for today!

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Look around us. Consider America: Four or five million alcoholics and about twenty million family members affected by their plight; more children the victims of broken homes than ever before; more crime and lawlessness than ever in the history of our country; greed, lust, and violence on every hand. Is this a Great Society? It might well be called a sick society. But Christmas is the story of One who came into the world to save sinners—to redeem us back to God. No wonder that the Gospel is called the “Good News”! The wonder is that so few know it, so few speak of it, so few believe it.

The inability of many people to recognize their plight and to acknowledge God’s loving provision for that plight is evidence of the power of Satan, who blinds the minds and hearts of men so that they neither see nor believe. For such persons Christmas is merely a day for celebration and revelry.

For the Christian, however, the celebration of our Lord’s birth is a time to consider anew the fact of Calvary and the atonement for sin Christ wrought out on the cross. The Bethlehem story, the cross, and the empty tomb are bound together by the strongest ties. The sinfulness of man is exceeded by the love of God expressed in the redeeming work of his Son.

Christmas reminds us of the miraculous. God, the God of creation, is above and beyond that which he created. In his intervention in human history, it was inevitable that his supernaturalness should be manifested. It could not have been otherwise. Not only was this birth the birth of his Son in human form; it was also in many other ways a divine intervention in time and space.

Astronomers generally agree that the star that led the wise men from the East and finally stopped over the Bethlehem manger cannot be explained as a natural phenomenon. But for the Magi it was so real that it led them to the manger.

In our sophistication today we discount what cannot be demonstrated by science. The star that appeared in the East was real to those who sensed its significance and followed it; and when they saw it hovering over Bethlehem, it was a source of great joy.

Woven through the Christmas story there are angelic beings. An angel appeared to the shepherds announcing the birth of the Saviour. An angelic host suddenly appeared “praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!’ ” (Luke 2:13b, 14). An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him” (Matt. 2:13); and, later, an angel appeared to tell Joseph that Herod was dead and could no longer harm the child.

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Gabriel, the angel who appeared to Daniel to instruct him, came now to Zechariah to tell him of the coming birth of his son, John. It was also Gabriel who appeared to Mary with the stupendous news that she was to be the mother of the Son of God.

Of Gabriel, so prominent in the Christmas story, we know only that he is an angel who stands in the presence of God—a supernatural being with a heavenly message of the greatest earthly importance. How little we grasp the reality of angels! In the Christmas story there is an ever-recurring reminder of those unseen beings, some of whom encamp “around those who fear him, and [deliver] them” (Ps. 34:7).

Again and again the Scriptures remind us that the advent of Jesus Christ was a fulfillment of general and specific prophecies. Without the Old Testament we could never understand the New. Without fulfilled prophecy, our expectation of the yet unfulfilled would be dimmer or absent.

Finally, the Christmas story is a constant reminder of the wisdom of God’s timing. Jesus came into the world “in the fulness of time,” when three factors combined to help carry out God’s purpose: relative peace imposed by the law and order of Rome and made effective by her communicating roads; the culture of Greece and the beauty and universality of its language, in which the New Testament was to be written; and the Hebrew nation, to which had been given the revelation of God’s divine laws and prophetic plans.

To celebrate Christmas we must realize who was born, what he came to do, and how the hope of the world rests in receiving him as Saviour and Lord, King of kings, and Lord of lords.

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