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Bloody Christmas

0 comments | 11:41 pm | top |
From the moment Jesus was born people hated Him and wanted to kill Him. The Romans had put in place a puppet king, King Herod of Judea who was jealous of his position and saw the birth of this baby as a threat. Later on, one of Jesus' followers named Matthew wrote down the events which we now have in the Bible, Matthew 2:13-16;

"An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him. When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt."

Herod was unaware that Joseph, Mary and Jesus had escaped into Egypt and so initiated a campaign of infanticide against the baby boys in the region in the hope of killing Jesus.

"He sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under."

Jesus escaped this first attempt on His life, but the very reason He had come into the World was to be killed. His own people, the Jews despised Him, and as another one of Jesus' followers said, "He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him." At the age of 33 He was condemned to death by crucifixion, arguably the most painful, slow and humiliating punishment in the Roman Empire... 2000 years later we just have a picture of the nativity scene in our minds and revved up Christmas carols down at the shopping mall. Christmas is about getting together with the family, giving each other presents and eating too much. If this is all Christmas really is, then it was just a bloody abysmal failure. If Jesus was just a well-intentioned and good man who died on a cross, then Christianity is a false religion and Christmas is a non-event. As another of Jesus' followers - Paul said, "If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile". We can only say "Merry Christmas" if the angel was correct when he said to the shepherds out on the hillside,

"Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord."

What are these good tidings which made the shepherds joyful, and what does it mean that Christ was Saviour and Lord? The angel was speaking on behalf of God and was making reference to the prophecies hundreds of years ago, documented in the Old Testament of the Bible which looked ahead to God sending a Saviour who would save His people from their sins. The prophet Isaiah wrote approximately 700 years before Jesus' birth,

"For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will beno end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this."

This little baby Jesus was God's solution to our problem of sin. When God made the World, it was perfect, but when Adam and Eve sinned, the World was no longer perfect and people were separated from God by their sin. Because God is absolutely perfect and just, He cannot abide sin - therefore all those who sin must be punished. And the only fair punishment for sinning against an infinitely powerful and holy God is an infinite period of punishment - the Bible calls this Hell and tells us that it lasts forever.

However this is where Amazing Grace kicks in, because God is not only just, He is amazingly gracious and has provided a solution to our problem. We established above, a fair punishment for sinning against God, and now the question is, what is a fair price to pay for us to escape this punishment? Every other religion and faith in the World says that good works can make us right with God, however the Bible teaches that our good works are as filthy rags to God. Sure, it pleases Him when we do good things for the right reason, but good deeds don't serve to pay the price for the sins we've committed. The Bible teaches that God is one God, but in three persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father sent the Son to Earth, miraculously causing Him to be conceived in the womb of a girl called Mary, who had never slept with a man. Since Jesus was the God-man who was immaculately conceived, and never sinned throughout His life, He was acceptable to God as the perfect sacrifice which had the potential to pay for the sins of all the people who ever lived - because again, being God he was infinitely perfect and therefore perfectly suited to be a substitute for us. This isn't all though. In order to truly defeat death, Jesus would need to not only be killed and receive the punishment we deserved, but He must also overcome death and rise from the dead. Jesus did this on a Sunday about 2000 years ago, and we remember it as the Resurrection. If Jesus had not been raised from the dead, I would have just as much faith in Christianity as I do in George Lucas's "The Force".

I think the most common misconception about Christianity is that you have to be a good person to be a Christian, however this couldn't be further from the truth. P.O.D. got it right when they sang, "I'm not perfect, just forgiven, And I might just push back the next time you shove..." Being a Christian isn't about being a good person, instead it's about trusting in Jesus' death as payment for your sins to make you right with God, and then being thankful to God for that, and the outworking is our good works.

Here's what I wrote on the first day of 2009, kind of on a similar subject but in particular focusing on the pointlessness of a life in denial of God. Brendan and Scrubone have also written Christmas posts worth reading.

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