Luke 1:30-49; 2:4-7: December 22—Celebrate Jesus at Christmas time
Dec 15, 2013
By MARK A. RATHEL

Mark Rathel is a professor of theology at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville.
For Christians, the celebration of the birth of Jesus (birth) and the death and resurrection of Jesus (Easter) are intertwined. The purpose of the birth of Jesus connects to His role as Savior (Lk. 1:47; 2:11). A proper celebration of Christmas, the birth of Christ the Messiah, focuses on His identity and role as the only Savior. Yet, Christians recognize that much of our celebration of the first advent involves celebrations not connected to Christ. How can Christians keep Christ in a celebration named for Him?

First, celebrate Christ at Christmas time by declaring the identity of Jesus (Lk. 1:26-33). The angel Gabriel (meaning “God is My Hero”) delivered two announcements to people from different backgrounds. He announced the birth of the forerunner John to an elderly priest in the temple. He announced the coming birth of the Savior to a lowly Galilean woman. The angel announced four details about the identity of Mary’s prophesied son. First, her conception will be a supernatural, virginal conception. Second, God chose the name of the child—Jesus (v. 31). Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, a name meaning “God delivers” or “God saves” (Matt. 1.21). Third, Jesus will receive recognition for unqualified greatness. The OT describes only God as great without qualification, a possible allusion to Micah 5:4. John the Baptist was “great in the sight of the Lord” (1:51), whereas Jesus is great (1.32). Fourth, Jesus is the Son of God (the Most High). 

The Hebrew background for this title is an OT name for God “El Elyon”—the God Most High—the one above all things as maker, possessor, and ruler. In biblical thought, “son of” means one who possessed the qualities of the father; therefore, ‘Son of the Most High” attributes equality with God to Mary’s son. Fourth, Mary’s son will possess the throne of David (v. 32-33). Jesus is the promised Messiah, the descendent of God’s promise to David of a son, a lineage, and an everlasting rule.

Second, celebrate Christ at Christmas by focusing on the manner of Jesus’ conception (Luke 1:46-49). In answer to Mary’s question regarding the “how” of a virgin becoming pregnant, Gabriel attributed the pregnancy to God’s Spirit and God’s power. The Spirit actively participated in creation (Gen. 1:2); the same Spirit that brought something from nothing in original creation created life within Mary’s womb. The power of the Most High overshadowed Mary; the term “overshadow” described God’s glorious presence that rested on the tabernacle (Ex 40:34-35). Gabriel predicted twofold significance for Mary’s child. Mary’s child will be holy, understood in an absolute sense like “great.” Further, Mary’s child will be called Son of God.

Third, celebrate Christ at Christmas through worship (1:46-49). In response to Gabriel’s announcement, Mary modeled biblical worship. First, biblical worship is internal rather than external. Mary proclaims (rejoices) with her soul (spirit). Jewish songs often utilized parallelism in which the second line repeated the same thought as the first with synonymous terms. Proclaim and rejoice are synonymous as are soul and spirit. Rejoicing in the Lord is a form of proclamation. Second, the foundation for worship is God’s role as Savior. Until an individual recognizes Him as Savior, the individual cannot truly worship. Third, worship celebrates the grace of God. God graciously favored Mary; she did nothing to earn or achieve her role. Fourth, biblical worship celebrates the attributes of God. Mary reflected on God’s power and holiness.

Fourth, celebrate Christ at Christmas through receiving Him (Lk. 2:4-7). The Messiah came to His own town, the city of David, and experienced exclusion from normal shelter. Mary laid Him in a feed trough for animals. Jesus receives similar exclusion from the hearts of humans today.

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