Greetings Friends! It is the time of year when we celebrate with true rejoicing hearts about the birth of the baby Jesus, humanity’s Redeemer and Savior. It is a story which carries such deep spiritual and equally transcendent meaning and impact beyond some story any human could have told – for Christmas is God’s own story about mankind.
We would not properly understand the story of Christmas if we are oblivious to the story of man itself! So the beautiful story of humanity comes to us by answering the questions of why, what, and how, of the story of Christmas. The story of Christmas is God’s own story about all humanity.
Let us begin with the why of Christmas. But before we do, let us rehearse the most beautiful and inspiring story of the birth of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. After all, the Christmas story today has centered around His birth, although we will see the larger story today. Here is the account from Luke,
“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) What a marvelous account by Luke.
Christmas today has been so heavily commercialized and transformed from its actual purpose that its true meaning has been lost because it has been watered down to a commodity that can be traded. It is unfortunate, but in the end, it is the man for whom this day is devoted and honored who has suffered most. I hope we can recapture the true meaning of Jesus’ birth and God’s purpose for humanity.
The Why? Why was Jesus born? The why question of Christmas takes us back to God’s own story of humanity. When God our Father first created humanity, He did so with these beautiful words, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will have dominion on earth. So God created human beings in His own image. In the image of God He created them; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it” (Gen.1:26-28, NLB)
So, let us rehearse the why in God’s purpose of creating human beings. He said He created humans for the irrevocable purpose of fashioning human beings in His own image and likeness, so they may govern all He created upon the earth. There were two main motives and reasons God revealed about why human beings were created. First, there is the motives about God’s image and likeness. Second, there was the reason of governing and ruling His creation, the earth and all in it. Both go hand in hand, both can’t be separated. ‘Image’ and ‘rule’ is one and the same, you cannot have one without the other. In other words, if you deny His ‘image,’ then you disqualify yourself from ‘rule.’ So, the one who rule and govern must carry his/her person in God’s image and likeness.
The two points naturally dovetails into the next question. It answers the what question of Jesus’ coming and His birth. What is God’s image and likeness. This is vital because human rule hinges and pivots upon it. The center of gravity of human rulership is God’s image. What then is God’s image and likeness? The Scripture answers, “God is Love” (1 Joh 4:8, 16) Once the word Love is mentioned, then that defines relationship, for Love cannot exist by itself. Love is relational. God is relational in His Tri-Personal Being. God is composed of three Love Personalities, as Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in ONE Triune Being and Godhead. (Matt.28:19) So, rulership is done out of Love, for God is Love in His Triune Being. He created the earth and all in it from His abundant Love, and decrees that human beings rule likewise – out of Love. We can see Love explained in detail In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. (1 Cor.13:1-12)
So, the why question about Christmas takes us to the immortal passage from John’s Gospel, “For God so Loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). We realize that He gave His Son by being born a human. Also, we know the passage means that Jesus would give His life to die upon His cross to redeem human beings from sin and death (“should not perish”) and impart immortality as His gift.
By speaking of human redemption, God is recounting a sad chapter in human history about mankind’s fall from grace which made human redemption a vital equation in the why question about Christmas. God first created Adam and Eve perfect in His likeness until the day they decided to follow Satan the devil into disobedience and sin. (Gen.3:1-6) By forsaking God’s way of Love Adam and Eve inherited the sin-image and condition from the evil one and all humanity inherited the same sin-image from our first parents. The Love-image of God was gone and no more as symbolized by God cutting them off from access to the ‘Tree of Life’ representing the Holy Spirit and God’s Love. (Gen.3:24; Rom.5:5) Humanity had to wait until Jesus appeared as the Second Adam, bearing the name Immanuel, born in Bethlehem to restore God’s Love-image and conditioning which Adam and Eve forsook for the devil’s false promises in Eden. (Isa.7:14; Matt.1:23; Gen.3:1-6) So, Christmas is about rescuing fallen humanity from sin and death and imparting the gift of Love and immortality. (John 3:16-17)
Let’s answer the how question, since human beings are fallen and exists in the devil’s sin-image and likeness from Adam’s fall. The essential purpose of Jesus’ role as the Messiah is the restoration of humanity where human beings are restored back to the Love-image and likeness of the Creator God, as it was from the beginning. (Gen.1:26-27) All of God’s plan and purpose for humanity, no matter how grand and glorious, can’t be realized until that change takes place in the heart and being of human beings.
Let us now see the how question concerning Christmas. How will God make it possible for humanity’s transformation from the sin-image or condition inherited from Adam’s fall into the Love-image which Adam possessed when he was first created? (Gen.1:26-27) Jesus gives us the answer. God the Father sent His Son to be born through His mother Mary, to give us His plan on how humanity will be restored. Jesus had taken on the likeness of weak humanity as Immanuel, so in turn humans can take on the likeness of God through Jesus. In due time, Jesus announced the Father’s plan through Jesus’ interaction and conversation with a Jewish rabbi named Nicodemus.
The Bible records their interaction, “He (Nicodemus) came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent You to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with You.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:2-3). The Kingdom of God is God’s spiritual realm which cannot be detected physically through the five human senses.
Continuing with their interaction, we read, “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again? Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life” (John 3:4-6). So, the purpose of Jesus birth was to show God’s plan about how human beings undergo the transformation from the sin-image of the devil which Adam conferred upon mankind, to the Love-image of God Adam had from his creation. (Gen.1:26-27)
Yes, Jesus proclaims the how question about Christmas: ‘”You must be born again’” (John 3:7). It is a noteworthy observation that just as Christmas tells us the story of Jesus’ human birth, it also speaks of mankind’s spiritual birth. But what is the process of rebirth, how exactly does this happen and become reality in a human person? Jesus said, a human being must be “born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). What does that mean? Jesus was not talking of physical rebirth as Nicodemus assumed, He is metaphorically reflecting upon the reality of humanity’s spiritual birth. Humans cannot live the life of God’s Love, His very “image and likeness,” unless we are born again of the Spirit who unifies Himself with us.
Water symbolizes the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Triune God. Jesus made an interesting remark to His hearers, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified” (John 7:37-39). Here, the Scripture compares the Spirit to the cleansing activity of water. Jesus own example of His baptism in the Jordan, makes this clearer.
Recall, when Jesus was baptized in the ‘waters’ of the Jordan He underwent a type of watery burial and as He rose from the baptismal watery grave, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a dove, “And a voice from heaven said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!” (Matt.3:17). What we are witnessing through Jesus’ example is the process of spiritual rebirth a human being undergoes. This spiritual rebirth happens and takes place when a person is baptized.
At baptism a spiritual rebirth takes hold where the sin-image symbolically dies through Jesus act of redemption and is buried in the watery grave by divine authority through the Spirit’s power in the ritual of baptism. Then the believing person is given to rise from the symbolic watery grave in newness of life in Christ’s Love-image whereupon humans are made God’s children, following the Father’s pronouncement at Jesus’ baptism, “You are My beloved children, I am well pleased.”
Paul told the Roman believers, “We were therefore buried with Him (Jesus) through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Rom.6:3-11). The “new life” is a life lived in God’s Love-image as His children. Yes, after baptism humans exist in a new life in the Love-image and conditioning of God just as He has predestined mankind to inherit.
Jesus was the first human to undergo this rebirth, and in so doing He did it on humanity’s behalf through His own baptism. He was baptized for us, just as He died for us upon His cross. In entering the Jordan He underwent John the Baptist’s “message of the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mar.1:4). So, Jesus repented for humanity’s forgiveness at His baptism in the act of burying mankind’s sinful past as symbolized by burial in the watery grave of the Jordan. In doing so, He opens the way for human repentance and forgiveness through His baptism and death upon His cross, and thereby spiritual rebirth through the Spirit’s power.
Therefore, we follow in Jesus’ footsteps when we undergo our individual baptism. We cannot repent and obtain forgiveness on our own volition, Jesus has to do it for us, just as He died and redeemed us upon His cross, for this was the mission given Him by His Father to accomplish. (John 3:16-17) That’s to say, we can do it only because Jesus has already done it for us. This act of Jesus on humanity’s behalf is called the principle of substitution in the Bible. It essentially means Jesus takes our place and took the fall for us. Paul explained the principle to the Corinthians this way, “God made Him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor.5:21)
This is identical with John’s immortal passage, “For this is how God Loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:16-18, NLB).
The apostle Peter explains how we are made to enter the ceremony of baptism and undergo the spiritual rebirth. Peter told the people of his day, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Act.2:38, NLT). To “repent of your sins and turn to God” means to recognize the sin-image we have inherited from the first Adam, and now turn to the Second Adam in Jesus who will redeem and change us over into God’s Love-image in the Spirit’s power. (Rom.5:5) The prerequisite for baptism and the new birth is repentance and forgiveness which Jesus has already done in the Jordan for humanity. All we have to do to is receive and accept what Jesus has already done in and by faith.
Faith is the all-important ingredient which makes the spiritual rebirth possible. Paul said this about faith, “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith” (Rom.1:17). Listen, we all have faith. There’s human faith which operates and relies upon the five human senses of sight, smell, hear, taste, and touch..and might I add human thoughts. Then there is the spiritual faith which the Bible describes as, “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Heb.11:1). In other words, it is not detectable nor does it work through the five human senses and human thoughts. (2 Cor.10:5; Isa.55:8-9)
Basically, the spiritual faith is the Personal faith of Jesus. It comes to us through the Spirit’s power, not human power. Paul said, “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal.2:20). So, it is not our limited human faith, but the limitless Personal faith of Jesus. Though human faith is inadequate in spiritual matters, it is not redundant nor needless, for as humans we have a part to play through our faith. Human faith can be made to merge with the spiritual faith of Jesus so both complement one another rather than oppose each other. (You may want to read about The Faith of Jesus on my blog post titled, http://bulamanriver.net/30348)
I will close with this inspiring passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, “When you believed in Christ, He identified you as His own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom He promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that He will give us the inheritance He promised and that He has purchased us to be His own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify Him” (Eph.1:13-14). Were it not for Jesus’ saving redemptive work, the Holy Spirit could not enter human life because of sin. Hence, Jesus said, “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away (to the Father). Unless I go away, the Advocate (Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7).
Jesus’ saving work has given access for the Spirit to enter and make human life a temple to dwell in and furnish the power of God’s Love-image. (1 Cor.3:16; 6:19; Gen.1:26-27) Paul said, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you…God’s Love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (1 Cor.6:19; Rom.5:5). Now, human beings can live according the likeness of God’s Love-image as intended from creation. (Gen.1:26-27) The purpose of Christ birth has found a home in the very heart and soul of humanity.
Petition: Dear Friends, as I have closed my post in the past, I customarily give our readers the opportunity to give their lives to our Maker. I thank you for investing your precious time with me in the sharing of the good news of Jesus who has enabled us to live the Triune Life*. Jesus is alive today as our High Priest in heaven seated at His Father’s side, and ceaselessly mediating for us. I hope that in your heart to heart, and faith to faith, you will receive Him as your personal Savior, receive God’s Spirit, and be part of living this glorious humanity made children of God forever.
You can privately and quietly pray the prayer below in your heart. I am asking you to pray this prayer as a human being Christ died for, regardless of your background. All are inducted into the one mankind Jesus saved, not into any religious sect or denomination, or any division one may espouse – but into the glorious humanity that Christ is preparing as the holy temple for God’s dwelling:
Prayer: “Almighty God, Father of all humanity, forgive me of all my sins for I believe and receive Your Son, Jesus, as my personal Savior. In Your incalculable grace, grant Your promised celestial life in Your Son through Your Holy Spirit, and open my eyes to the wondrous gifts you have conferred upon me and all humanity. May Your Love guide and protect me and my Loved ones always, and bring us all into Your beloved and divine Kingdom. I praise and thank You, Amen.”
Welcome to the celestial life of Love in God’s holy, eternal Family. (1 Tim.6:19) Then keep in touch with God’s Word for you by reading and studying your Bible, and visiting this blog and website and look at various subjects that may be relevant for your situation – go to: http://bulamanriver.net You can email me with your questions at the address shown below.
Personal Blessing: Until we meet again in my next post, may the blessings of the God who ceaselessly expresses Himself in His dependable Triune Love, be with you always. May the Spirit enliven your spirit and make all things concerning you possible as you live the “Triune Life”* Be strong in the Lord’s Temple where joy abounds. May the joys of Christmas bring you and your loved ones peace and blessings.
Farewell for now!
*Triune Life”: Relationship with God has no meaning without Love. By its very nature, Love cannot endure 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 trinitarian Being and plural existence. That is, 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 for ‘God’ in the creation account is “Elohim.” It describes God as a Trinity – the Tri-Personal Godhead, which other scriptures attests. (Matt.28:18-20; 1 Pet.1:2; 2 Thess.2:13; 2 Cor.13:14) So, God is Trinitarian in His Love nature. Love by its nature unveils a God who is relational and multifaceted in His Tri-Personal Being. Hence, a human being was created a relational Love-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, italics mine). So, God gave Adam a family composed of a father, mother, and offspring, to reflect Himself in His plural Love-Being. (1 John 4:16) The Bible states that the Church’s or humanity’s destiny is to marry Christ, the second Person of the Triune Godhead, in the new age to come which will be an everlasting relationship. (2 Cor.11:2; Eph.5:23-27, 32; Rev.19:7) The Bible is abundantly clear about God’s nature and declaration of Himself in His relational Triune Being from the past, the present, and the future. God has never lived as a solitary Being, but a Tri-Personal Love-Being with His Son, Jesus, and His Spirit. (Mat..28:18-20)
It’s noteworthy to understand that Eve was not created an individual creation from the dust of the earth as was Adam. She was not created apart from Adam as an individualized separate human being, instead, she was taken out from Adam’s side to show she was biologically one and indivisibly part of Adam. Eve was not detached (solitary) from Adam, but intrinsically inseparable from Adam’s innermost being and humanity. When Adam saw Eve, he 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).
Each one of us was created as an indivisible relational human being incubated and given birth from Adam’s mold as one species, for God created humanity to reflect the eternal likeness in His triunity. We are born for relationships with the divine triune Love as our guiding principle. All this show that humans were created to be indivisibly one to reflect God’s Tri-Personal image of Oneness, not solitary separateness. When God sent Jesus His eternal Son, He became human in order to unify humanity spiritually to the Triune Being of God once for all time. Hence, when the prophet Isaiah proclaimed Jesus’ coming, He was given the prophetic name, Immanuel. (Isa.7:14) The name means “God with us” (Matt.1:23). Humanity is ‘organically’ one with the Triune God, just as all of humanity is inseparably one with Adam.
Most religions believe God as some solitary being. The true God is not solitary by any means, He is the Trinity in His Tri-Personal Being. God consist of three Persons in One divine triune Godhead. They exist in One “homoousion” meaning consisting in one substance, or “consubstantiality.” The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exist in One hypostatic union, One substance, like Eve was biologically part of and never physically separate, but of one substance from and in Adam. Likewise, humanity is made of one spiritual substance with the triune God through Jesus Christ who took our humanity upon Himself and joined it to the divine triune existence forever. Jesus was given the prophetic name Immanuel which means “God with us”, or God with humanity. (Matt.1:23; Isa.7:14) As the prophecy foretold and fulfilled, God assimillated Himself with mankind through Mary who bore His Son, Jesus Christ. (Matt.1:20; 18-25; 2:1-2)
The three-dimensional Triune Life/Love is opposed to living the one-dimensional solitary life of the fallen humanity inherited from Satan through Adam’s rebellion. For additional information about the Triune Life: http://bulamanriver.net/?p=8036. Also at: http://bulamanriver.net/9092.
**Bulamanriver: To read the different facets of the life of the Bulamanriver, you may obtain a copy of my book, “Bula” Man-River, from Amazon.com; xulonpress.com, barnesandnoble.com, and other online book stores. All proceeds will go towards furthering the work of Gospel of Jesus Christ around the world.
All scriptures are taken from the NIV Version 2011, unless stated otherwise.
Mission Statement: Read the Triune Love Mission, Vision, and Value statements at: http://bulamanriver.net/8664
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