"Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy." - John Trapp

Monday, December 25, 2006

What Is Christmas About (Conclusion)

In John 12:41, after quoting two passages from Isaiah, John writes, "Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him." The first of the quotes from Isaiah is from Isaiah 53:1. This is one verse out of passage that referred to the "Suffering Servant". The entire passage is Isaiah 52:13-53:12:
13Behold, my servant shall act wisely;
he shall be high and lifted up,
and shall be exalted.
14As many were astonished at you—
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
15so shall he sprinkle many nations;
kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which has not been told them they see,
and that which they have not heard they understand.

1 Who has believed what they heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
6All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
Isaiah is the prophet who proclaims that the virgin will conceive and bear a son. Isaiah is the prophet who tells us that the Messiah shall be the mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. But not without suffering.

Every Christmas, gifts are exchanged. Sweaters for necklaces. Toys for cheap perfume and cologne. Unwanted items for cash (after an incredibly long wait in line). But Christmas is about what Martin Luther called the Great Exchange. Jesus takes my sin, and gives me His righteousness. Think about that for a second. Jesus bearing our sin that we might bear His righteousness. A crass application is that we shouldn't complain if we come out on the short end of a gift exchange this Christmas. The scales are already infinitely weighed against us.

But it is so much more than how we view the little gifts we exchange. God the Son took on human flesh, and died, that we might have life. Christmas is about the Great Exchange.

May you not only get what you want this Christmas, but what God knows that you need. Merry Christmas.

PS - Regarding Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (to be fair, I've not actually read the book, so perhaps Hollywood's A Christmas Carol would be more accurate): Why did I say this was the anti-Christmas story? Because from everything I can tell, it is a morality play. An older, more serious version of My Name Is Earl, if you will. A series of circumstances leads a "bad man" to be a "good man" by his own effort. While Christians should be moral, the message of Christmas is that we do not become "good men" by our own effort. Our goodness is based on the Great Exchange - sharing Christ's righteousness. Scrooge's change is great, from a human standpoint, but if all he did was change his outlook on life, he still goes to hell. If that makes me a Scrooge in your eyes, so be it. But don't think your New Year's resolutions are going to save you. Trust in Christ.

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