The Forgotten Symbols of Christmas1
THE FORGOTTEN SYMBOLS OF CHRISTMAS
The second chapter of Luke records to us the birth of Christ. It is also a special account because it tells us how the simple shepherds became the first ones to herald the good news of Jesus’s birth. Take note that the shepherds were out in the fields at night does not preclude a December date, as the winter in Judea was mild. But, of course, the text says nothing about the time of year. The traditional date for the Nativity was set, long after the event, to coincide with a pagan festival, thus demonstrating that the "Sol Invictus," the "Unconquerable Sun," had indeed been conquered. December 25 was widely celebrated as the date of Jesus' birth by the end of the fourth century.
However, deeper than the date we all became festive about is the truth that God became flesh and lived among men. Here are the symbols of Christmas that I believe we need to recollect.
First, is the incarnation. Incarnation meant as God becoming flesh. The eternal Son who is God (the word) becoming the son of man through the virgin conception (Mt.1:21-23; Isa.7:14). For the first time in the history of men, God dwells in the midst of sinful human beings, he himself became one of them. He experienced the experiences of men, but Christ remain sinless in his humanity. Read Luke 2:11, Matthew 1:23, Colossians 2:9 and Philippians 2:5-11.
Second is reconciliation. This is to make man who was once an enemy of God have peace through Christ’s atoning death. A change of relationship between God to man from hostility to harmony. Reconciliation does not necessarily equate salvation, but it is to show that a sinner can now be forgiven. Read Rom.5:11; Col.1:20-21; 2 Cor.5:18.
For the first time in the history of men, men received the eternal peace he is looking for and the joy the world could not produce. Read Luke 2:10,11. Joy is the result of God's work in man (Isa 65:17-18). Even as God's displeasure with sin brings judgment, so his pleasure brings joy of heart. The joy is more than an emotional expression; it is a contented resting in God. The security of having been reconciled with the Lord and of having peace with him (Rom 5:1) is of the greatest import. This joy is hence known as "the joy of your salvation" (Psalm 51:12).
Third is regeneration. This is the new birth by the Spirit-implanting of the divine nature by the word of God and will of God and Spirit of God through faith (1 Pt.1:23; Titus 3:4, Jn.3:5; Rom.10:17; Eph.3:17.) Its implication to us is that, for the first time in the history of man, he can now be right in the presence of God through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Fourth is kenosis. This is the voluntary emptying of Christ by him taking on an additional nature while not setting aside his divine nature and attributes. He became a servant obedient to the Father (Phil.2:5-8; Jn.1:14). For the first time in the history, man saw a great example of humility - God the creator of all that men enjoys, the mighty One who is the Life giver gave the real meaning of the greatness of being humble.
So I believe these are the symbols of Christmas we need to take note of. We all grew up celebrating the Holidays in somewhat worldly fashion that we tend to forget the real meaning of why Christ came into this world.