the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
Christmas has come and gone and the pace of life is returning to normal. Unfortunately our focus on the Christ of Christmas often “returns to normal” with the passing of the holiday as well. I think one of the reasons for this is because we fail to see the Christmas story as history. Instead, it is a once a year holiday celebrated with decorations that include a baby in a manger.
Yet, we all know the truth; Jesus Christ was born like any other baby and lived life as any human being might, but he was not just another infant among thousands even though the early part of his personal history seems nondescript. In the Gospel of Luke after the account of Christ's birth we read that, on the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons” (Luke 2:21-24).
It may seem odd to us that Jesus underwent circumcision since he did not have any sin that required “cutting away.” It might appear improper that sacrifice was made and a redemption price paid on Jesus' behalf as firstborn son. However, Jesus stood in the place of Israel. He entered this world in order to save his people from their sins and it was their guilt that rested upon him, their sin that needed to be removed. Moreover, the redemption price was paid for Jesus because as true Israel he was under the sentence of the Passover death and five shekels of silver were required to redeem his life ( Exodus 13:12-15, Numbers 3:47-51). Thus, Jesus, born of a woman, born under law, was subject to the rites common to any Israelite male in order to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons (Galatians 4:4-5).
This is the history of Christ's life immediately following the Christmas story and it sets the tone for everything that came after. We know almost nothing about the intervening 30 years – except a brief mention of an event that took place when Jesus was twelve years old. The fables that purport to provide details of his growing up years are mere foolishness; the real history of his life picks up again when Jesus himself was about thirty years old [and] when he began his ministry (Luke 3:23, brackets added). From that point forward we see Jesus presented as the Eternal Son clothed in human flesh, the truly human representative of Israel who declares the fulfillment of God's covenant promises in himself. We see him revealed as the redeemer of all mankind and the only way to salvation. He is displayed as the one to whom all authority in heaven and on earth is given, the warrior king gaining victory over his foes at Calvary. He is esteemed as the first born among many brethren leading the way into a life altering relationship with the Creator of the universe. He is the one who enables his comrades in arms to live victorious lives, each bringing his arena of activity under the lordship of the Master.
These things we need to keep in mind once the Christmas celebration is over; they sum up the “reason for the season.” Yes Christmas is over – but the Grand Adventure is only beginning.