A couple of days ago I was reading an article called “Litany of Grace” in In Touch Magazine‘s December issue, and I came across a paragraph that said, “Psalm 136… reminds Israel of God’s unquenchable kindness, goodness, and power, not only by describing his character but also by narrating a history… The nation faced a continual barrage of persecution and sorrow, yet God repeatedly asserted He never had abandoned His people and never would.”
Is now a good time to confess that I didn’t immediately read Psalm 136 or finish the article? Instead, I was totally sidetracked with how much this is the message of the Christmas story, too.
The Bible itself is a story of our continual struggle on earth and God’s unquenchable love through it. A love that was so big that He came to be with us through His Son, Jesus Christ, and paid the full price for our sin – the very sin that causes this continual struggle on earth in the first place – and offered us new life both on earth through His Holy Spirit and in His Kingdom for eternity.
If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it really should be. No one loves that much except for God.
So while I probably should have gone back and read Psalm 136 (and I’m going to – promise!), I ended up reading through a series of verses that God managed to string together for me as I was thinking about all of this. Rather than try to put it all into words myself I’m going to let His Words speak for themselves and tell the story of how Love came down on Christmas day.
First are the words from the prophet Isaiah, who wrote this around 750 years before the birth of Christ, to tell the Jewish people that God’s Son, the Messiah, was coming.
For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of His government and peace there will be no end. – Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV)
And then to tell them of the salvation that would come through Him.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from the darkness for the prisoners, to the proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance for our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor. – Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV)
Then the words of John, one of Jesus’ closest friends, as he recorded the life of Jesus – who is the actual living embodiment of everything God’s Word had promised would come to pass and the light that would release us from the darkness.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:1-5, 14 (NIV)
Then Luke’s record of Jesus’ actions and words as He declared Himself to be the embodiment of the Word – the Messiah they’d been waiting for.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues and everyone praised Him.
He went to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went to the synagogue as was His custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. Unrolling it, He found the place where it is written:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’
Then He rolled back up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him. He began by saying to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’ – Luke 4:14-21 (NIV)
And Jesus’ words as He shows us who He is and how He loves us. Our Prince of Peace, just like we were told in Isaiah 9:6 above…
Jesus speaking: Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14:27 (NIV)
And the light that releases us from the darkness, just as was prophesied in Isaiah 61, too…
When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ – John 8:12 (NIV)
His plan to share His love with the world through us as we come to know Him…
Jesus speaking: You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may seen your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)
And Jesus’s ultimate sacrifice so that we could be made new through the forgiveness of everything we’ve ever done outside of love (our sins) and everything we ever will do outside of love through the power of His Holy Spirit. Before we’d ever earned it, just because God loves us.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. – Romans 5:6-11 (NIV)
How when we stop trying to be good enough on our own and accept this amazing sacrifice, we’re made blameless in God’s eyes and completely forgiven.
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. – Romans 3:22-24 (NIV)
And how He fills us with His love through His Holy Spirit and continues to make us more like Him until we join Him for eternal life in heaven. Because He wants nothing more than for us to know we’re loved and that we don’t have to do this life on our own. He always has been and always will be with us.
I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Holy Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and how long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love surpasses all knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:17-18 (NIV)
Because of Christmas, we can celebrate that it doesn’t matter how much we’ve messed up or how messed up this world can be, God’s love for us is bigger. That Love came down to be with us and that Love paid the price for every time we’ve snubbed God or turned our backs on Him or did something we knew we shouldn’t do. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross we have direct access to God through His Holy Spirit wherever we are. Nothing will ever separate us from His love.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and knowledge of how loved you are!
Original Nativity Set Stock Photo by digidreamgrafix from freedigitalphotos.net. Adapted for this blog post by Stephanie Oh.