“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” – Luke 2:10-14
May I Greet you my Friends with a joyful and peaceful Christmas 2015!
Christmas has lost its authentic meaning and purpose in a world that has commercialized it to no end for its own economic advantage. The same goes for the Christian world where claims about the true date of Jesus’ birth and its origin in paganism seems the main focus. Ralph Orr, in his article about Christmas, said, “Unless we are to conclude that celebrating Christ’s arrival as God in the flesh is a bad thing, its celebration on what was once a pagan holiday is irrelevant. Christians who keep Christmas are not pagans. They do not worship nor regard pagan gods. They honor Jesus Christ as who choose to practice their faith in this spirit of devotion conflicts with many New Testament principles.” (https://www.gci.org/christmas/sin)
He goes on to say “Israel added Hanukkah and Purim to its religious calendar – events that celebrated God’s saving acts in Jewish history and these were acceptable to God. Examples such as these have led many Christians to conclude that the church also has the freedom to add to its calendar festivals that celebrate God’s intervention in human affairs, such as the birth of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus.”
The Birth of Jesus, The Immanuel – “God with Us” (Wiki Commons)
With Mr. Orr’s candid outline, I would like to share three reasons from Scriptures to help us celebrate Christmas as Christians. Let’s consider these vital reasons by answering the basic questions, why, what, how, who, and when, of Christmas. Jesus was born to answer this 3-fold purpose of God in creating man which humans have tried to answer for ages. Let’s start with…
Answers for Your Christmas Questions (Poster: Wiki Commons)
The Why question about Christmas?
The purpose of Christmas goes back in time by answering why the Creator God made humans? God uttered these famous and never-to-be-forgotten words at man’s creation, “Let Us make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness…In the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.” (Gen.1:26-27). So, God made humans to become like Him. It’s very simple yet deeply profound.
Let’s see the what question about Christmas?
If Christmas is about reflecting on God’s purpose of creating man in His likeness, then what is His likeness?
First, God is Spirit and existed from eternity, without a beginning nor end. That is His basic and primary image – He is Spirit and eternal, so He made humans for immortality. The Scripture says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16; 1 Cor.15:50-56). So, immortality is the first of man’s 3-fold destiny.
“In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality” (1 Cor.15:52-53). (Pic: Fountain of Eternal Life, Downtown Ohio, Cleveland – Wiki Commons)
Second, Scripture also tells us, “God is Love” (1 John 4:8). Love is His nature and character. He is not made of Love – His IS Love! God IS forever “giving,” it is what Love does. Love is both His Name (noun) and occupation (verb). It is not our human narrative of love, which is mostly ulterior in its motives, but a Love so pure springing from His divine Being, with never a trace of spoof in it. God and Love are one and the same, there can never be separation of the two. Paul wrote to the Romans, “We know how dearly God Loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His Love” (Rom.5:5). So, God is at work making man into the likeness of His divine Love. John was inspired to write, “No one has ever seen God; but if we Love one another, God lives in us and His Love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:12). In other words, to Love one another is to see the face of God. But it is not human love, but God’s divine Love He imbues within us with His Spirit.
“God is Love” 1 John 4:8 (Wiki Commons)
Third, Love, by its very nature, cannot exist in solitary existence. So, when God said “Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness…” He was revealing Himself as existing in His Tri-Personal Being as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (Gen. 1:26; Matt.28:19; John 14:10, 16; 16:7) The Hebrew word God in the creation account is “Elohim.” It describes God as uniplural – a Tri-Personal Being, which other scriptures attests. So, God is Trinitarian in His Love nature. Love by its nature is relational as God is. Hence, man was created a relational being. Adam was solitary and incomplete until God made Eve. He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone (solitary). I will make a helper suitable for him” (Gen.2:18, emphasis mine). So, God gave Adam a family to raise with a father, mother, and offspring, to reflect Himself in His Triune Being.
It’s noteworthy to realize that Eve was not an individual creation, she was not created like Adam. But she was made from Adam’s rib to show she was intrinsically One and indivisibly part of Adam, not detached (solitary) from him, again, to reflect God’s image of Oneness, not separateness, in His Tri-Personal Being. Adam saw the most beautiful woman ever created and said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man” (Gen.2:21-23). So humans exists in the very template of God’s Triune Being.
Many religions believe God is “solitary.” Yes, God is One, not three, but He is not solitary by any means. (Deut.6:4) The three exist in One hypostatic union (of One substance). Is it possible for God who IS Love to exist in isolation, in solitude – unaccompanied, secluded, alone in self-absorbed existence? If God were one solitary person, with no one to Love and share His divine Being, then the Scriptural affirmation that “God is Love” would be meaningless. (1 John 4:8) God has always been a Triune Being from eternity. God exists in His One Tri-Personal Being through the power of their Love for each other, and includes man through His Son. Jesus instructed His disciples to induct believers into the “Triune Life”* of God, saying, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt.28:19).
God, A Tri-Personal Being in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Rublev’s famous Icon of the Trinity – Wiki Commons)
Let’s answer the how question about Christmas?
If Christmas is about man adopting God’s likeness through immortality, by becoming Love as He is by nature, and living the “Triune Life”* as He does in His Tri-Personal Being, how does all that translate to reality in humans? From the outset, the answer ought to be obvious a human cannot make this 3-fold aspect of God’s likeness happen in his or her own power. This is God’s work, not man’s, and only He can accomplish what He sets out to do. God said, “Let Us make man…” not, ‘let man make man.’ But He will enlists our cooperation if He is to successfully carry out His purpose in each of us. Yes, great as He is, Love (God) always comes with freedom, not bondage. So, we are given the freedom to choose, just as Adam and Eve were free to choose between the two trees. By enlisting our participation in His plans, He is exercising His own mode of doing things the “Triune” (collaborative) Love-way. There can be no other way for God to relate with us but in the template of His Triune life and Love. So, freedom must come with responsibility, and it’s exercised with Love, not selfishness. So, the flip side of God’s Love is freedom.
Now, we know Adam and Eve chose to follow the path of rebellion, and so has mankind since. (Gen.3:1-6) They were banished from Eden and God’s presence, “After He drove the man out, He placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life” (Gen.3:24). Leaving Eden behind them also meant they had no access to the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life symbolized God’s way of life (“Triune Life”*). The “Tree of Good and Evil” represented man’s solitary way under the influence of the arch-deceiver, Satan. God is the source of all life, especially spiritual life which connects God with man. So when man alienated himself from God, he was uncoupling himself from the source of God-life itself. The only other alternative, outside of Eden, is where the enemy and death reigned.
A Depiction of “Tree of Life” (Wiki Commons)
It is vital to understand what God said to our first parents about what would happen if they disobeyed Him, He said, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Gen.2:16-17). We know God was not speaking of physical death because Adam and Eve did not just fall and die on the spot after eating the forbidden fruit. So, God was referring to a different kind of death. It was the death of the human spirit. God had breathed into Adam his living spirit which enabled him and his wife Eve to commune and have a Loving relationship with Him. (Gen.2:7) Animals have instincts and behave in a predetermined manner, but God gave Adam the living human spirit with a mind capable of making choices. Adam and Eve lived in total Loving harmony with God, where only good, joy, and beauty was the experience of life.
But all that changed after their disobedience. What really happened? Paul answers, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom.6:23). James says, “Temptation comes from our own desires which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death” (Jam.1:14-15) So, it’s clear God was not speaking of physical death, but spiritual death of their once living human spirit. Their separation from God, the very source of life, meant only one thing, the opposite of life – death! Adam’s eviction from Eden placed man on a path of self-centered fear in place of God’s outgoing Love. It left a trail of destruction and ultimately his physical demise. But physical man was given the ability to change if he chooses, and God’s desire is for man to choose Him so He can impart His 3-fold blessing which ultimately ends in immortality. (2 Pet.3:9)
Let’s now answer the who question?
Who will resurrect man’s dead spirit back to life so humans may commune with God and accomplish His first purpose for mankind. If man cannot relate with God because he is dead to sin in his spirit, God cannot fulfill His promise to bring man His 3-fold blessing. God and sin are opposites and incompatible. As surely as He is Love, and magnanimous in exercising His Love, God promised to send His Son, the second Adam, to correct the wrong Adam had imposed upon man. (Gen.3:14-15; 1 Cor.15:45) Man’s spirit must be made alive again to enable him to have a Loving relationship with God. But sin is in the way for it has put to death the man’s spirit. Sin must be put away first. Sin must be completely and utterly banished from man, just as it banished man from Eden and God’s presence. For sin to be removed once for all time, a Savior is needed. God promised man that He would send a Savior after man’s fall in Eden. (Gen.3:14-15; John 3:16-17)
Adam and Eve Banished from Eden (Wiki Commons)
On the day the Savior was born in Bethlehem, the angel who announced His birth to His mother, Mary, said, “You are to call Him Jesus” (Luk.1:31). The name Jesus means “Savior” or deliverer. Jesus was no mere human, according to the revelation given to and spoken by the prophet Isaiah, prophesying the birth of Jesus, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and will call Him Immanuel” (Isa.7:14).The name Immanuel means “God with us.” Jesus is both God and man. His divine origin from the Triune Godhead qualifies Him to be our Savior, for no human could be found to save mankind. Peter told the people in his day, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Indeed, this is the essence of Christmas, it is the day God chose to unite Himself to mankind, keeping His promise to send a Savior in His Son, and fulfill His 3-fold purpose. God has never deviated from His purpose and promise to mankind.
The account of Jesus birth was recorded by Luke in this way, “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” (Luke 2:1-20)
This is the most beautiful and inspiring account of God’s story about man. For in it we witness the humblest of manner God chose His Son to enter our human world through the virgin Mary, in a manger, and in the most unlikely place for a King to be born, in the little nondescript town of Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2)
The Wise Men Bearing Gifts for Baby Jesus (Wiki Commons)
Let’s now answer the when question about Christmas?
When does this 3-fold promise of God begin to take shape in the life of man? It starts with man exercising his faith to believe in the Savior given by God at Christmas. Faith is the primary spiritual ingredient which activates God’s miraculous activity in man. You see, to carry out His 3-fold purpose in man will take a miraculous act. How will man attain immortality except by the miracle of resurrection from God. (1 Cor. 15:52-53) So it goes with the other two gifts. God’s gifts are spiritual and faith gives you the pair of eyes to see and experience spiritual realities. We take faith for granted. With God, faith is the turning point in human life. Listen to the promise God makes us, and realize the power of faith, “WHEN YOU BELIEVED, YOU WERE MARKED IN HIM WITH A SEAL, THE PROMISED HOLY SPIRIT, who is a deposit guaranteeing our (3-fold) inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of His glory” (Eph.1:13-14, my emphasis). Because we believe in the Savior Jesus, you and I were specially and personally marked by God our Father as His own CHILDREN with His own seal of adoption in His Spirit. Hence we read, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Heb.11:6).
We have human faith, but it is limited to this physical life validated by our five senses. Divine faith can be likened to a ‘bridge’ one takes across the impassable chasm from the physical realm of man into the spiritual realm of God. Think for a moment about Adam’s sin. He believed Satan’s word over God’s word and the spiritual realm reacted to his faith – his spirit died because of sin stemming from his misplaced faith. It shows how powerful faith can be. Adam’s descendants (mankind) experienced all the human sufferings and man’s inhumanity to man as a consequence of his faith and continues to our day. As sure as the Scriptures tell us, faith is a living, dynamic thing, listen, “faith is the reality of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb.11:1). In other words, you don’t have to see it to believe its true, as long as God says it. In God’s spiritual realm, faith has the power to activate both life and death – the ordinary or the miraculous. Paul said, “You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you” (Rom.8:9). That’s to say, faith is the ‘doorway’ into the spiritual realm and all things about God, and the enemy too. Only Jesus’ faith can bring man back into Eden (God’s presence), just as he was ejected when his faith was misplaced.
Dove, Symbol of Holy Spirit and God’s Love & Comes to Man by Faith (Wiki Commons)
The Relevance of Christmas – Jesus Birth and Man’s Spirit Birth
Here’s where Jesus’ birth and God’s 3-fold purpose in man, comes together. The Scripture says an angel appeared to Joseph and said, “What is conceived in Mary is from the Holy Spirit” (Matt.1:18-24; V.20). What we see in Jesus’ miraculous birth through Mary was God’s way of taking our humanity and joined it permanently to His Triune Being. Thus, in a literal sense God takes on our human image through Christ’s birth on Christmas Day. But Christmas was not intended to be ‘one-way’ with just God entering the human realm. Now, man must have a similar miraculous birth and enter God’s realm and take on His 3-fold image. Jesus told Nicodemus about this spiritual birth, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). John the Baptist told his listeners, “I baptize you with water, but He (Jesus) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:8, emphasis mine)
Jesus has conformed to our human image by becoming fully man (Immanuel), now we conform to His divine likeness by becoming like Jesus. Thus, we read in Romans, “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (into immortality). And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified” Rom.8:29-30, emphasis added).
So, we see Jesus was born a human and entered our physical realm through God’s Spirit, and the self-same Spirit gives man a spiritual birth to enter God’s spiritual realm. In both instances, there is a birthing process. Jesus was born a human on Christmas Day, so we can have our day to be born into immortality by a resurrection. (1 Cor.15:35-58) Jesus promised the disciples, “Very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate (Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7). The promised Holy Spirit lives in man “forever” and He is man’s guarantee of immortality. (John 14:16; Eph.1:13-14) Just as Jesus has a birthday in His human birth, so must we in our spiritual birth. That is the essence of the Christmas message.
In christology, death always means a rebirth into new life. Paul tells us the reality of the Spirit’s work today, “And God raised us up with Christ (brought the dead human spirit back to life) and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Gal.2:6). Further on Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live death), but Christ lives in me (new life)” (Gal.2:20, parenthesis mine). What we see here, at long last, the once dead human spirit of man is resurrected alive through the Holy Spirit from the death Adam had consigned it. Man can once more commune with God in the very presence of God’s heaven where He dwells, man’s Eden today. Man is put back on track in his journey to fulfill his purpose of being made into the image of our Loving Triune God.
One final question: what was God’s purpose for creating man in His 3-fold image? I have left the best for last. Let me complete the passage of man’s creation: “And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over all the earth…” (Gen.1:26). God possesses all power so He is Creator and Ruler, that’s the epitome of His image. His 3-fold image explains how He rules and creates by His power. Today, man has limited creative abilities, which proves he is made in God’s likeness. Earth is man’s eternal home as Revelation 21 says clearly. God will remake a new universe with a new earth and new heavens, and He encourages us, “He that overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be My sons/daughters” (Rev.21:7). His desire is we become like Him and inherit the recreated “new heaven and new earth” in the new age to come. (Rev.21:1) Yes, we are destined to rule over all creation with Christ. (2 Tim.2:11-13; Rev.20:6)
“Then I saw a New Heaven and a New Earth” (Rev.21:1). (Wiki Commons- First Image Taken by Humans of the Whole Earth. Photographed by the Crew of Apollo 8)
As Christmas approaches, I encourage you to think about this mind-blowing enterprise God wants to accomplish in mankind. I sincerely hope He will give you the eyes through faith to see His unfathomable Love in His invitation to participate in His 3-fold purpose, and His promise of dominion over His creation. May the joy of the Lord be yours this Christmas!
If you have any question, please don’t hesitate to write me in the space provided below, or email me on email@example.com. Thank you for visiting!
*”Triune Life”… means a believer who lives the 3-dimensional life with the Triune God, as opposed to the ‘solitary’ 1-dimensional life in himself inherited from Adam. Jesus’ mission to His followers authorizes them to “baptize believers into the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Matt.28:16-20). It means to induct humans into the “Triune Life” of God. The image and Being of the Triune God is hardwired into two basic characters of His divine nature: Love and Freedom. The Bible declares, “God is Love” (1 John 4:8). And, “If the Son sets you Free, you will be Free indeed” (John 8:36). God is not a ‘solitary’ Being as many assume, He is a Tri-Personal God. He is three free Persons living in One homoousios (of same substance) union of Love. Our unique human personality is fashioned after the three free Persons of the Tri-Personal Being of God: Father, Son, and Spirit. We were created in God’s Loving and Free Triune image. So, Christ’s mission is to enlighten the human mind about the Triune nature of God, and His call to be immersed in the “Triune Life” and so be fashioned and conformed in God’s image of Love and Freedom. (Gen.1:26-27, Rom.8:29).
** Bulamanriver is the metaphor describing the Loving union of God and man, making possible the “Triune Life,” the source of the miraculous life man is privileged to live and experience. To read the many facets of the Bulamanriver, go to my website www.bulamanriver.com. You can also order a copy of my book.
All scriptures are taken from the NIV Version 2011, unless stated otherwise.
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