Mural, painted on the interior of John the Baptist Church at the Jordan River, depicts the birth of Christ. Author: David Bjorgen
By Dr Henry Shepherd
The month of December symbolizes the beginning of winter and Christmas season. Christmas reminds the birth of Jesus, celebrated on 25th December, but the season ends after the funfair of New Year Eve. Jesus, a historical figure, was born to humble parents in a manger in Bethlehem, so no one cared to record the date of birth. Mary and Joseph were his worldly parents, but no human effort or seed of man was responsible for his birth. The angel of God told his virgin mother, “Greetings, you are highly favoured; the Lord is with you,” and “Don’t be afraid Mary you have found favour with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the son of Most High. The Lord will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever. His kingdom will never end” Mary asked, “How will this be? Since I am a virgin.” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will over shadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God”. Mary gave her consent, “May it be to me as you have said.” However, his parents did not share this mystery with others, so only a few could recognize Jesus as their Messiah. Though people were waiting for Messiah in view of at least fifty prophecies in the Scriptures. But they expected him as their king.
In these two thousand years the festival has turned out to be session of funfair for eating cake, wearing new dresses, singing carols and decorating houses and Churches with cribs, candles, and partying; and has been christened ‘Xmas’. A section of society has also added drinking and dancing to make it more enjoyable. However, for professing Christians, such meaningless activities are unbiblical having no spiritual significance. Since the devil does not want a man to take God’s plan seriously, it suits him this way, and the day by day Christmas celebration is deviating from a meaningful occasion to commercialism. But until the purpose of Jesus’ birth, and His coming to the world as a common man is known, one cannot appreciate the sanctity of festivals like Easter or Christmas.
The angels communicating the first Christmas message to Mary, Joseph and Shepherds was a rare event. In secular, world messages have been misunderstood, concealed, lost or altered for personal gain, but divine messages cannot be tempered or hacked. For successful communication, a message should be understood correctly and timely. Recent developments in communicational skills have revolutionized the world yet they are far inferior to perfect divine messaging system. God has been communicating with man using various modes through the Holy Spirit, angels, prophets, dreams, visions, and calamities etc, then finally He sent Jesus who said, “What I have heard from the father I tell the world.”No gadget is used, yet God’s messages are lucid if the concerned person is genial. He says, “My words that go out of my mouth will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. The Christmas message sent to Mary is still relevant to them who believe in Christ.
According to the angelic message, Mary gave birth to a son, and she named him ‘Jesus’ which means- God saves. His greatness has been attracting the people all over the world, and he is esteemed as the saviour of our souls, by virtue of his death on the cross and resurrection on the third day. He addressed God as his Father, and later through heavenly declaration- “He is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” God affirmed the unique relationship between him and God. Since he was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, for human understanding the expression ‘Son of God’ is understandable. Therefore, he was fully man and fully God at the same time. If we trace the genealogy of Jesus from Mary, it reaches King David. Also guided by a brilliant star three wise men of the East came to worship baby Jesus and informed King Herod accordingly.
Jesus has prophesied –The sinful world will come to an end due to wars, famines and earthquakes. The sun will darken, and the moon will not give light, the stars will fall from the sky, and heavenly bodies will be shaken. To fulfil fifth and sixth parts of the message, Jesus will come second time on clouds with great glory to judge the world, and he will take his elects to live with him. Heaven and earth will pass away but not his words. However, only Father knows the date and time. The new earth will come down from heaven and son of God will rule on earth for one thousand years until the devil is thrown into the take of fire forever, along with them who have disobeyed God to follow Satan.
Jesus has declared the purpose of coming to earth as follows: He said, I have come,
Not to abolish the law but to fulfill them.
Not to call righteous but to sinners.
Not to be served but to serve
Not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.
Not to judge the world but to save it.
Into the world as light so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
That believers may have life and have it in full.
Christians celebrate Christmas to remember and thank Jesus for his birth as a man, and for fulfilling all his purposes in our lives.
Though not much is known about Jesus’ childhood, the Bible says he loved children. Once people were bringing their children to him for blessings, but his disciples rebuked them. Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it,” and he commanded children to honour their parents. During Christmas season let us be thankful for baby Jesus’ birth, and resolve to help children we come across and teach them good things. Ponder, will it not be hypocritical to celebrate the birthday of baby Jesus with zeal at one hand and on the other stop the birth of other babies @ 125000 abortions, in the world per day? Every child is sent by God with purpose, but by aborting unwanted children man is not only destroying God’s creation by killing them in wombs, but also causing imbalance in sexual ratio, and thus hinders God’s plan. In the light of what we have done in these 12 months, are we qualified to celebrate Christmas? May this Christmas be a day of prayer for the fulfilment of His purpose in our lives. Christmas is a day for self- introspection, whereas Xmas is merely celebrations season.
Dr Henry Shepherd is former Pro Vice Chancellor Sam Higginbottom Institute of Ag Engg & Tech