Most people understand that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
Yet many do not understand the context of Christmas, which provides us the meaning of Jesus' birth.
The Bible says,
This grace was given us in Christ before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus…
2 Timothy 1:9-10
Christmas is God giving grace to the human race through the birth of Jesus. To fully appreciate God's gift of grace to us through the birth of Jesus, we must first go back to before time began...before God created anything or anyone. We must go back and examine why God created anything or anyone at all.
The Bible says that before time began, God gave us, the human race, grace in Christ.
This grace was given us in Christ before the beginning of time...
2 Timothy 1:10
Think about what this means...if grace was given us in Christ before the beginning of time, then the purpose of time must be for the unveiling of grace by God to those for whom it was given.
If the purpose of time is God's revelation of grace to those he loves, which is everyone, then what is the purpose of grace? For that matter, what is grace?
Grace is God's strategic plan to pour out his unconditional love and his unmerited kindness on mankind through Christ for the purpose of reconciling us to himself and restoring the earth to its original condition for our enjoyment.
So let's go back...way back...to before time began and take a closer look into the heart of God.
Before time began, God existed and his nature was love. Love was at the center of God's heart before time began. It was this love that moved him to create mankind.
The Bible says God is love (1 John 4:16), and that we were created in his image (Genesis 1:27). This means we were created to be loved by God and to love God. We were created by God to be in a love-relationship with him. This is the whole purpose for our existence, to be in a love-relationship with God.
Not only did God create us to be in a love-relationship with himself, but he also created all things for our enjoyment. God created the earth and everything in it for the enjoyment of those he loved. Once he completed his creation, God saw all that he had made, and it was very good (Genesis 1:31). From this point forward, the role of mankind was to enjoy, explore, develop, and manage all the good God had created.
Following his creation of mankind, he commanded Adam not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And, if he ate from the tree, he would surely die. Eve, deceived by Satan, ate from the tree, and Adam, disobedient to God, ate from the tree. In eating from the tree, Adam and Eve both deliberately walked away from their love-relationship with God.
This deliberate act of walking away from God is called sin. And with this deliberate act of sin, sin and death entered the world and spread to the entire human race.
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all have sinned...
Since sin and death spread to the entire human race, everyone is born spiritually dead, or separated from a love-relationship with God.
In addition to mankind being separated from God because of sin, all of God's creation was infected with sin. Because of sin, creation itself was not the same. Things were not good anymore. The atmosphere was affected. The climate was affected. The human body and mind was affected. The only thing not affected by sin was God's love for mankind.
Mankind's sin did not affect God's love for us. Despite our sin, God still loved us and desired to be in a relationship with us. He still wanted us to enjoy the earth he had created and all that was in it. As a matter of fact, our sin became the perfect time for God to initiate his grace plan by demonstrating his unconditional love and unmerited kindness to us.
Remember, God had a plan before time ever began. It was a grace plan by which he would pour out his unconditional love and unmerited kindness on us in reconciling us to himself and restoring all he created to its original condition through Jesus.
The sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden did not take God by surprise. God is all-knowing. In his omniscience, he knew mankind would deliberately walk away from a love-relationship with himself. Because of his knowledge, he provided grace for us in Christ before time began so we could be reconciled to him, and so all things could be restored for our enjoyment.
The working out of God's grace plan began immediately after the sin of Adam and Eve. He replaced the fig leaves they covered themselves in with animal skins. For Adam and Eve to be clothed with animal skins, an innocent animal had to die. Rather than Adam and Eve immediately dying physically for their sins, an innocent animal was substituted in their place. This was a picture of grace carried on throughout future generations in the Bible until Jesus, through grace, paid the final sacrifice for all sins for all people for all time.
God revealed more of his grace plan to Adam and Eve in the Garden when he said a woman would give birth to a male child who would crush Satan's head.
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 heal.
So what do we have so far? God created mankind to be in a love-relationship with himself and to enjoy all he had created. However, mankind walked away from God in a deliberate act of sin, causing sin and death to spread to the entire human race, severely affecting the earth and everything in it. God, then, initiated his grace plan to reconcile man to himself and restore the earth to its original condition by providing an animal to be a death substitute for mankind's sin and by telling of a male child who would be born of a woman, crushing Satan's head.
So where would this male child come from and what woman would give birth to this child?
In Genesis 12:1-3, God calls a man from the human race through which he would continue to implement his grace plan. This man would be the father of a great nation. This great nation would be a blessing to all people. Because from this nation, the male child who would crush Satan's head, reconcile mankind to God, and restore everything to its original condition for mankind's enjoyment would be born.
The man whom God called to be a father of a great nation was named Abram, later renamed Abraham. The nation is called Israel. The child to be born to crush the head of Satan would be named Jesus.
The Lord said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people, and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
In these verses, God made several promises to Abraham, one being this:
All the people on earth will be blessed through you.
We see in this verse God's heart of love toward all people. Because of God's love for us, he desires and promises to bless us. This blessing was his grace plan of love and kindness expressed to us through Jesus by which he would reconcile mankind to himself and restore all things to their original creation for mankind's enjoyment. This in the following verses:
Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel (grace) in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed (graced) through you." So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith...the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus...God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise...the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe...Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law...the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith...If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise...But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights as sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his son into our hearts, the spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father."
Galatians 3:6-10,, 14, 23-24, 29; 4:4-6
Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring...Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.
and Romans 4:16, 5:1-2
So what is the promise God made to Abraham? Based upon the verses above, I summarize God's promise to bless the people of the world as follows:
God's loving desire for mankind is to reconcile us to himself, or bring us back into a loving relationship with himself through grace, which is his unconditional love and unmerited kindness. He made a promise to Abraham to bless or grace the people of the world, bringing them back into a loving relationship with himself through the nation of Israel, specifically Jesus who was a descendant of Abraham. Through God's blessing of grace, expressed in his love and kindness to us in Jesus, Jesus would pay the penalty of sin for all people. Through faith in Jesus, any person could be reconciled to God, or begin a loving relationship with God. This act of reconciliation by grace, the blessing promised to Abraham, would include being declared not guilty by God (justified), made righteous before God (cleansed from all sin), forgiven by God, and removed from the law of God. Once declared not guilty by God, made righteous before God, forgiven by God, and removed from the law of God, God would send the Spirit of his Son into our hearts enabling us to call him "Abba, Father"; thus, enjoying a genuine relationship with God as our loving Father. We access or enter into this promised grace plan by believing, or having faith in Jesus.
In initiating his grace plan, God called Abraham to leave where he was and go to a land God would show him. So Abraham left and went to the land of Canaan...the Promise Land. This land became the home of the nation of Israel and the birthplace of Jesus, the very One whom this grace plan would come from.
The Old Testament records the history of the nation of Israel, and foretells of a child who would be born from the family line of king David, be born in Bethlehem, die for the sins of the world, and be King of Israel, culminating in bringing peace to the world.
In the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all the nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.
For unto us a child, and to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness for that time on and forever.
A shoot will come up from Jesse (the father of David); from his roots a Branch will bear fruit...with righteousness he will judge...with justice he will give decisions...The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf the lion and the yearling together; a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child will put his hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm or destroy on my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; and the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.
"The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David's line; he will do what is just and right in the land (land of Israel). In those days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety."
"The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety."
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem. See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth...The Lord will be king over the whole earth.
Zechariah 9:9-10 and 12:9
Behold I will create new heavens and a new earth.
Peter, in the New Testament, comments on God's promise of the new heaven and and new earth.
But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to new heaven and a new earth,
the home of righteousness.
2 Peter 3:13
The Old Testament foretells of God setting up his kingdom of peace on the new earth. This new heaven and new earth is also called the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven.
So we have the promise of a King who would be born to Israel and establish God's kingdom on the new earth. He will usher in God's grace plan that will be a blessing to the world. This blessing will include peace among the animal kingdom, and peace among the nations of the world. There will be no more war. Peace will flow from one end of the earth to the other. There will be social peace, emotional peace, mental peace, financial peace, relational peace...peace will be known all across this new earth, and experienced and enjoyed by everyone living on it.
This coming King who will rule the new earth will also be the Savior of the world. He will enable all those who have sinned to be a part of God's kingdom of peace on the new earth by dying for our sins. In Isaiah 52:13-53:12, he is described as the Servant who gives his life for the sins of all mankind and who will rise from the dead.
See my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him - his appearance was so disfigured, beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness...He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hid their faces he was despised and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned his own way; and the LORD has laid upon him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and to cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life, and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many and he will bear their iniquities...he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intersession for the transgressors.
And where will this Savior-King be born? Where will the One be born who will die for the sins of the world, be raised to life, and usher in the new heaven and earth, bringing peace to the world? Bethlehem!
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times...He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD his God, and they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach the ends of the earth.
And he will be their peace.
This Promised One who was coming into the world through Israel was called in the Old Testament Messiah and in the New Testament Christ. The Messiah or Christ would be the one who would usher in God's grace plan to save mankind from their sins as Savior, and bring peace to the world as King. The Messiah or Christ would be the one sent by God to carry out God's grace plan to reconcile mankind to himself, and to restore the earth and all that is in it to its original condition for mankind's enjoyment.
When we open up the Bible to Matthew 1, verses 1-17 record the genealogy of Jesus. Why? Because the Old Testament foretells the Christ who was to come, ushering in God's plan of grace for the world, would be born in the family line of David and Abraham. Therefore, Matthew 1:1-17 records the genealogy of Jesus to prove to the reader that Jesus is the Christ foretold in the Old Testament.
Before the coming of the Christ, the Old Testament foretold of a forerunner who would come in the spirit of Elijah, announcing the arrival of the Christ to Israel and preparing the nation for his arrival (Isaiah 40:3-5 and Malachi 4:5-6). This forerunner of the Christ we know as John the Baptist whose father was Zechariah.
Zechariah was a priest who served in the temple of Israel in Jerusalem. When Zechariah was in the Holy Place of the temple, the angel Gabriel appeared to him telling him his wife, Elizabeth, would give birth to a son and his name was to be John. Their son would be the forerunner of the Christ foretold in the Old Testament (Luke 1:5-25).
Six months after Elizabeth became pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth. He appeared to Mary, telling her she would give birth to the Christ. She was instructed by Gabriel to give the child the name Jesus (Luke 1:26-38).
In both of these angelic appearances, Gabriel provided the names that Elizabeth and Mary were to name their children, John and Jesus. But what is so significant about these names? Why would it matter at all? Why would God instruct Gabriel to name the children John and Jesus? God, in giving Gabriel the exact names for these two children, had a purpose behind these names.
Jewish names always had a meaning. Once we see the meaning behind the names of those involved in the Christmas story, it will make perfect sense as to why Gabriel provided these two names, John and Jesus.
John's father's name was Zechariah. The name Zechariah means God Remembers.
John's mother's name was Elizabeth. The name Elizabeth means God's Promise.
John means Grace.
Jesus means Savior.
Mary means Loved One.
Now, let's put the meaning of all these names together.
God remembers his promise to save those he loves by grace.
Amazing! God is so loving toward those who walked away from him, mankind, that even the names of those involved in the Christmas Story reflect his continued love for all mankind and his desire to be reconciled to them by grace.
The meaning of these names reflect God's strategic grace plan which he gave us in Christ before the beginning of time. God's plan of grace, to reconcile us to himself and restore everything to its original condition, was given to us in Christ before the beginning of time, promised to us over the course of time, and appeared to us in God's perfect time. The initial appearance of grace was a baby in a manger.
But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman...
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men...
Christmas is the birth of Grace! It is the birth of the Christ who was born for the very purpose of ushering in God's grace plan as Savior-King.
...God, who has saved us…not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus…
2 Timothy 1:9-10
And he was born exactly where the Old Testament said he would be born, Bethlehem, and to do exactly what the Old Testament said he would do as announced by the angel to the shepherds.
"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."
The angel who made this announcement to the shepherds was then joined by a heavenly host, and together they began praising God, saying together:
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on who his favor (grace) rests.
This Savior-King had been born. The angel announced the good news of great joy. The Christ whom was to come to usher in God's grace plan to reconcile mankind to himself in a loving relationship, to restore all things to there original condition for mankind's enjoyment, and bring peace to the world, had been born.
John talks about this in John 1:1-2, 14 and 16:
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God...The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us...From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.
The Bible talks about God's grace plan to reconcile us to himself through Jesus.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God was making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him he might become the righteousness of God. As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain...I tell you, now is the time of God's favor (grace), now is the day of salvation.
2 Corinthians 5:18-6:2
...to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding...It is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.
Ephesians 1:6-8 and 2:8-9
The Messiah, or Christ, born into this world to usher in God's grace plan was rejected by the world he came to save. The people of Israel declared that he was not their king, demanding he be crucified (John 19). The Gentile's nailed him to the cross. So the whole world rallied against him.
Yet, he rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and will one day return as King to usher in the new heaven and new earth.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people and he will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things have passed away." He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!..."
The new earth is the restoration of the earth to its original condition as in the Garden of Eden. It will be a place of total healing and happiness. It will be a place of total peace and purity. There will be no more pain, sorrow, or fear. All things will be new!
We will enjoy, explore, develop, and manage the new earth. We will build, work, and play on the new earth. We will enjoy athletics, music, friendships, hunting, fishing, painting, movies, theater, etc...We will explore the new heaven and earth through science and archaeology. We will develop the new earth through architecture, engineering, and construction.
All the things we enjoy on the earth now, we will enjoy on the new earth. Except, the new earth will not be affected by sin or Satan. The human experience will not be affected by sin or Satan. We will have new bodies to live on the new earth. We will enjoy the new earth at a greater level of enjoyment than ever before because it is the home of righteousness where everything is right. Where everything is as it once was when God looked at all he had created and said it was good.
The curse which God put upon the old earth following Adam and Eve's sin will have been removed on the new earth (Genesis 3:17-19; Revelation 22:3). The limitless possibilities of what the new earth offers are beyond imagination!
And what made all this possible? Grace! God's unconditional love and unmerited kindness for those who walked away from him made all this possible. He did not walk away from us, but in grace he came to us...he came to us in a manger.
The time is coming when God's grace plan will be fulfilled and we will forever enjoy this inheritance of grace. It will be his good pleasure to bring his grace plan to fulfillment through Christ when all things in heaven and earth will be brought together under Christ's reign.
And he has made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment - to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head - even Christ.
And in this coming age, when God's grace plan will be in full effect, we will be the objects of his incomparable grace for all eternity. Our lives on the new earth will showcase his grace!
...in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
All eternity will be a celebration of the marvelous grace of God, his love and kindness lavished upon us in Christ Jesus that enabled us to be reconciled to him and to enjoy the new earth.
God's grace, that appeared in manger in the person of Jesus, who died on the cross for our sins, and is coming back again as King, is available to everyone. No one is beyond the reach of God's grace. No one's sins are so great that grace has not paid the price for those sins.
"It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life."
It's not too late for you. You have not done too much. Today, you can come and drink of the free gift of God's grace. God loves you!
Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes,
let him take the free gift of the water of life.
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.
At this very moment, you can place your faith in Jesus and drink of his love and grace. Below is a simple prayer by which you can express your faith in Jesus.
God, I realize I was created to be in a relationship with you. I have walked away from you. I have sinned. But in grace, you have made it possible for me to be in a relationship with you.
Because of your great love and kindness, you sent Jesus to earth to pay my sin penalty through his blood. Jesus died for all of my sins. He arose from the dead and ascended into heaven. One day he will return to establish his kingdom on earth. God I want to be in a relationship with you. I want to live on the new earth. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. Today, I place my faith in you. I receive your forgiveness. I am now in a relationship with God.
If you made a decision to place your faith in Jesus, I celebrate with you! As does heaven itself!
The final words in the Bible are as follows:
The grace of our Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen.
What a fitting way to end the Bible. God's grace was given to us before time. It appeared in a manger at just the right time, and grace will be with us for all time!
What a marvelous grace plan!
During the Christmas season, we celebrate the birth of grace in the person of Jesus.
NOTE: This blog is from my book, The Story of Grace. If you would like to purchase a copy, click below.