We once again have come to that wonderful time of year, called Christmas. It is a season that can be fun and enrich our lives in many ways as we enjoy great Christmas music and share life with family and friends. At our house, my working theory is that one can never have too many lights, and so, I work at installing as many as I reasonably can. And as we decorate outside, it is with the intention of letting folks around us know that Christmas is about Jesus the King and Savior entering this world. I have a couple of banners: one reads “the greatest gift of all” with a picture of Mary, Joseph and Jesus; and the second one says “King of kings and Lord of lords.” My prayer is that those who walk or drive by might wonder what those things mean and perhaps begin to open a heart or two. That, of course, is the work of the Spirit of God. During this season on TV, Hallmark and other channels work hard at producing dozens and dozens of Christmas stories (usually of a romantic nature with basically the same plot) to help us enjoy the season. Many other programs appear on television with the subject of Jesus’ birth. So, this time of year has its upside.
But the culture has generally so diluted the account and purpose of Jesus’ birth, that no one without some biblical background would really figure out what the Christmas season is all about. Satan and his minions have successfully disfigured the event. If my neighborhood represents the culture at large, then the Evil One has done a pretty effective job. Decorations are on most all the homes near us but their relationship to Jesus’ birth is completely unclear. I have yet to figure out what a group of penguins, Sponge Bob and Darth Vader have to do with that event 1900 years ago. And was Santa Claus really at the manger with Mary and Joseph?
There is a reason why the Devil messes around with our Christmas celebration. He simply wishes to blind the minds of people (2 Cor. 4:3-4) to the reality that God took on human flesh (John 1:14) in order to deliver people from their spiritual condition of being separated from Him (John 3:16). By disfiguring and distracting, he helps folks not to think about their guilt, anxiety and emptiness, and God’s solution to it all. I remember a Christmas past when a young couple was standing in front of a store window with a manger scene in it. I overheard one say, “Why do they have to bring religion into everything?” The sheer ignorance of that statement is hard to fathom. But it does show how effective the Enemy’s work has been.
Surely part of our task, as those who understand why Jesus came into the world, is to counter this demonic work of disfiguring and distorting and clearly share that the Savior came long ago to completely take care of our sin and guilt and to bestow eternal life on all who believe (Acts 4:12). He may not have come on December 25th, but He came….and that is the point.
When Jesus was born, Satan and Herod teamed up to try and destroy Him (Matt. 2:16; Rev. 12:3-5) but could not do so. They were dealing with God who became flesh in order to follow through on His deliverance of mankind, by dying on the cross and coming back from the dead. Jesus’ entrance into this world was validated in many ways over many years. For example, the “star” informed the Wise Men that the king of the Jews had been born and was alive in Israel. And while the Wise Men were never at the manger the night of Jesus’ birth, they did arrive in Bethlehem a year or so later and saw the King-Savior in the house where Joseph and Mary were living (Matt. 2:7-11). The “star” was not some existing heavenly body but was a dramatic, dynamic declaration that God had come into the world. It was supernatural. I would concur with Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum when he said,
“By this star coming in the form of light, what we actually have is the appearance of the Shechinah Glory….The Shechinah Glory is the visible manifestation of God’s presence. Whenever God became visible in the Old Testament, this is referred to as the Shechinah Glory. In most cases, the Shechinah Glory came in the form of a light, fire, cloud or some combination of these three things. Over in Babylonia a light appeared, a brilliance, a radiance that may have looked like a star from a distance and yet had actions and did things which no star can do or does do. What these Wise Men actually saw was the Shechinah Glory. When they saw this…unusual brilliance, they deduced from it that is was a signal that the King of the Jews, the Messiah, had been born.” (Messianic Christology, pp. 143-144)
Angelic announcements (Luke 1:11,26;2:9-11), unusual workings of the Spirit of God (Luke 1:41, 67; 2:25-32) and the word of a prophetess (Luke 2:36-38) all declared this to be a watershed moment in human history…a Savior had come who would restore all that was lost millennia before in the Garden of Eden. And later, Jesus would validate all this by performing thousands of miracles. Full, complete salvation would now come to believing people. It should not surprise us that Satan (the god of this world) works tirelessly at disfiguring Jesus first coming. So, to distract, he suggests that this be a “December to remember” by buying a new car, or perhaps getting some fine jewelry from Jared to really make life worth living.
And what should not go unnoticed is that this one also works tirelessly at disfiguring Jesus Second coming, and it is tragic that the church today gives him great aid in the matter. Jesus’ powerful return will end Satan’s career and will bring in that long awaited “return to Eden” in the Messianic kingdom and the eternal kingdom. There really will be peace on earth then. But today, churches and denominations in America are consistently downplaying Jesus’ return to this planet in power and great glory, and by doing so reveal how enculturated they have become. The Apostle Peter observed that this is false teaching and must be resisted by believers (2 Peter 3:2-13). After describing the characteristics of false teachers, he noted that their teaching is focused on living large in this present world (2 Peter 2), which becomes even more noticeable come “black Friday”, cyber Monday, etc. etc. This world is their focus, not the world to come where the Savior returns and His power and glory are seen. Thus, Jesus’ return is apparently not that important as we live in this present world.
And so, church after church downplays, dilutes or removes altogether clear statements about events surrounding the Second Coming of Jesus to this world. In our culture, and its influence on church culture, talking too much or precisely about the return of Jesus Christ is seen as rather divisive and much too dogmatic. And besides, really cool preachers need to stay away from prophecy, since that is domain of really unbalanced Christians. But this was not attitude or approach of the Apostles or of Jesus Himself. Prophecy shows that Jesus will bring about the fulfillment of His magnificent promises to His people, and it will be done in an unmistakable way.
In Matthew 24:30, Jesus taught that immediately preceding, and in connection with His Second Coming to earth, a sign would appear in the sky; something which all on earth would see and understand its significance. The word “sign” (semeion) is used to refer to an unusual or miraculous event. (This word is used by John to refer to the miracles of Jesus). The sign given, in connection with the Second Coming, is a miraculous event that points to something very great; namely, the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. I would suggest that the sign is yet another appearance of the Shechinah Glory, indicating the presence of the Son of God.
It is true that the “star” in connection with the first coming of Jesus has often been misunderstood, but we can say with confidence that there will be no such misunderstanding at the Second Coming when the Savior-King returns in power.
As we come to this Christmas season, we can enjoy God’s many good gifts to us and give Him thanks for them. But let’s also keep an eye toward heaven for our Savior’s return to take us back to the Father’s House. And let’s also be ready to swim against the strong cultural current this season and let those around us know that the Savior came that glorious night to do the hard work of delivering us, a lost race of people. And let them know that there will be peace on earth.