Luke 1. 26 – 33; Mat 2. 1 - 6|
Isaiah, prophesying the birth of Christ, the Prince of Peace, stated that The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light. (Is 9. 2) All the best of literature, music, architecture, the very framework of morality—all emanate from the birth, life and teachings of that Jewish child born 2,000 years ago. His unpretentious life was short and difficult. He saw his mission, yet knew himself to be a man subject to frailties, weaknesses, imperfections and subject to illness, subject to decay and death. He didn’t pretend to be above any of these things. Christ spent his life going against the grain, one man against the Roman world, the Greek world, the Jewish world--the world of the intellect lacking heart. A compassionate man toward his fellows-- How many times do you read of him, ‘moved with compassion, he stretched forth his hand? ‘ Plain spoken, always calling a spade a spade without hesitation. He loathed the Pharisees for their pretensions, their separateness, their meaningless works. And the feeling was mutual. He exposed them for being all letter and no spirit. His obedience to the Father was most often expressed in love. His life ended in a scream on the cross. John said he cried out, It is finished. And so it appeared to be.
How often we observe past as prologue. In symbol, he died for all of us. His death marking man’s reconciliation with God, found proof in the resurrection. The story of this reconciliation began centuries before his birth in Bethlehem, the plot traceable by his many names. The looked for Messiah was first called Shiloh, out of the tribe of Judah—a Star, who will have dominion—a prophet like Moses. Many times he was called a king—the son of David—the branch—the prince—the anointed one—God’s first-born. In Luke we read of a certain Jew named Simeon, who had been waiting for the consolation of Israel. He had been told in a vision that he would not see death until he had seen the Lord’s Christ. When Jesus was brought to the temple by his parents, for the custom known as Presentation, Simeon appeared there. In Luke’s narrative, Simeon took the child up in his arms and said, Lord, now let Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word; For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which thou has prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel. (Luke 2. 29 – 32).
The resurrection was responsible for the terrific explosion of Christianity which is but a continuation of the story of God’s relationship with man and the earth, that begins with Genesis and ends in Revelation. The Old Testament, a history of the Jews and their beliefs, and the New, the life and teachings of Christ and his earliest followers, a symbiotic relationship, to be sure, the New an addendum to the Old. Christ was not only the son of God, but was also the son of man, the Second Adam, the seed of Abraham, the son of David, the branch of righteousness, heir of the world, and most telling, the alpha and omega. The superscription on the cross—King of the Jews-- was written in Latin, Greek and Hebrew—words not subject to change by Pilate. Has he ever been king of the Jews? His faithful followers didn’t think so, but they did expect it. Christ had already told them that he would return only in God’s good time. (See Acts 1. 6 – 7), and that he would not rule as king until the times of the Gentiles were fulfilled, (See Luke 21. 24 – 27).
So the story continues. After his ascension, men began to watch and wait. How many virgins have kept their lamps trimmed and full of oil? How many men have put their talents to work while their master traveled to a far country? Your ancestors—80 generations—that’s how long ago. What’s happened in the world from then until now? Development of the church . . .sack of Rome . . .dark ages . . .Holy Roman Empire . . .renaissance . . .reformation . . .age of enlightenment . . .industrial revolution . . .nuclear age. Where does that put us now?
Well, we’re in the best of times, aren’t we? Maybe on a personal level, but without doubt the worst of times when you add it all up—implacable foes . . .terrorism . . .fanatics abound . . .germ warfare . . .the ultimate weapon . . .death. Christmas reflects it all—the selfish, the selfless—we see it all instantly, and there’s no solution.
The great light has become an artificial light. Christians go to heaven, do they not? So we don’t think of God’s work with the earth. God’s work is in heaven and it is man who works in the earth. We’re blinded by our perceptions—that things are constant—one day follows another. All things continue as they did from the beginning. But what seems to be real to us is an illusion; we’re hurtling through space at 2,500 mph around the sun, but our lives are so comfortable that we’re tempted—indeed do—come to believe the serpent’s lie: Thou shalt not surely die. But here’s the reality: according to Job, Only a few years will pass before I go on the journey of no return. (Job 16. 22NIV).
Well, we don’t have to go on that journey of no return. We have a chance at survival. By the grace of God the story can end well for us. If you look back at Isaiah 2. 9, at the second half of the quotation made earlier, it says, that they who dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. That’s us—you and me, if only we respond. But, where is the promise of his coming? It is 2,000 years from Abraham to Christ, 1,000 years from Abraham to David, plus 1,000 more years from David to Christ. From Christ’s birth until today 2,000 years. Take heart—be patient.
And the Lord answered me , (said the prophet)
Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables,
That he may run that reads it.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time,
But at the end it shall speak, and not lie;
Though it tarry, wait for it;
Because it will surely come, it will not tarry. (Habakkuk 2. 2, 3)
The great light that shone 2,000 years ago—now flickering—will illuminate the whole world and never go out.