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Christmas assails our sin-ridden world and begins the story of grace.
With our ever-increasing commercialized society, words have lost much of their former weight and glory. The power and emphasis they held and arrested our minds with is now reduced to a slight pause. We’re no longer captured or enthralled by the written language, save for when it’s constructed into 140 characters or less. The most egregious of all reductions has to be with the word “epic.” What 21st-century Earth calls epic is by no means the true sense of the word. We see some random individual perform something unique (notice, I didn’t say ‘incredible’ or ‘amazing’), and we deem that person to have accomplished something epic, when, in reality, his feat fell far short of the term. Or, the flip side, the same individual attempts his “epic” enterprise, only to fall flat on his face, quite literally, and this is termed an “epic fail.” Either way, the progression of society has led to the dilution of words.
But another word that has both lost its glory of old and its common usage is the word “remarkable.” This should conjure extraordinary events and astounding achievements, not limited to a field, a court, or a diamond. Something truly remarkable is something tremendous, stupendous, wondrous — a work so phenomenal it’s unbelievable unless you’re told. It’s an occurrence so sensational that it seems far-fetched and beyond all belief. Something remarkable is something awesome (another word that’s also lost its luster), and awe-inspiring. Such an event is what we’ve just celebrated. The incarnation of Christ Jesus, the Son of God, is the most remarkable fact in all of human history. The truth that the only wise, omniscient, omnipotent, holy God would manifest himself into our frail, fragile, filthy world as the Messiah seems far-fetched.
A divine invasion.
In a manner which, to us, seems counterintuitive and illogical, God has deemed and decreed in righteousness that his Son would be the satisfactory and propitiatory appeasement of all the holy wrath that has built since the Fall. The Father humbles himself as a Son who humbles himself as a man, walks among us, talks to us, grieves with us, and dies for us — all in the infinite plan of the Godhead to establish the foundation of free grace and love to his creation. Christmas, in and of itself, reveals why Christmas was so necessary. We’re confronted with our brokenness, our selfishness, our depravity, and we’re made to ponder, “This is what Jesus came into? This is the world Grace invaded? This is the ground upon which boundless love was made to spring?” Indeed, this is how the Christ Child comes, this is where the Messiah overruns our deadness and darkness with his glorious light.
What must be remembered is that, despite the cliché, Jesus is the reason for the season, the reason why we’re here, the reason for everything! He’s the Founder of free love, the Harbinger of hope, the Victor of sovereign grace. He’s the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Eternal Father, the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6). He’s the manifestation of wonder and remarkability, the very embodiment of the Godhead’s gracious disposition towards the desperate.
Christmas assails our sin-ridden world and begins the story of grace, as told by the Heavenly Father. As Genesis 3:15 is the proto evangelium, the first declaration of the gospel, so is Luke 2 the first movement in the gospel. The advent of Christ sets in motion the gracious motif of God drawing near to us — not because we’re doing it all right but because we’re perpetually doing it all wrong. The incarnation is the ignition of Jesus’s “good tidings of great joy.” It’s the inception of illimitable mercy, unilateral love, and inexhaustible grace. Christmas is the genesis of grace. The story of grace is the story of Christ’s condescension. It begins with a Prince humbling himself, emptying himself, “taking on the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7), taking on sin, shame, sickness, pain, and grief, bearing our iniquities and transgressions (Isa. 53), and ends with the Son of Man conquering death, hell, and the grave, crowned as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Golgotha, grace, and Christmas.
Christmas sets this in motion. Christmas begins Jesus’s quest to rid the world of sin, redeem the lost, and rescue the downcast. All goodness finds its wellspring in this event. Our deliverance is derived from Jesus coming down. With his descent, there’s no ascent for us. Without the Son stooping, we’re forever left to suffer the cruel pangs of sin and hell and brokenness.
The Son of God came to take our place of banishment, that, by so doing, he might effect our restoration . . . In love he took the lowest place that he might invite us to the highest. In love he went to the farthest circle of banishment that this earth knows, in order that, by bearing that banishment, he might bring us into the very centre of divine fellowship, and nearness, and heavenly gladness. (52, 63)
This is our glorious hope, our remarkable redemption. Jesus came to us, for us. He comes enrobed in love and adorned with grace. “It is love that brings him down from heaven into a world like ours,” says Dr. Bonar, “free unbidden love, love to the lost, love amazing and immeasurable” (2). Holy God occupied unholiness, remaining untouched by it, and there felled the prince of the power of the air; there defeated the God of this world.
As you celebrate Christmas, don’t neglect to remember all that that means. As you read about the baby boy in the manger, don’t forget that it was he was that carried your cross for you up the hill to Golgotha. Muse upon the fact that Jesus came down to us, that God became man that man might be with God. This is the story of grace, dawning in Bethlehem and climaxing at Calvary. This is remarkable redemption.
Horatius Bonar, Family Sermons (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1954).
Horatius Bonar, “The Love of the Spirit,” Kelso Tracts (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1851).