Summary: CHRISTMAS CELEBRATES ONE OF TWO DESCENTS OF CHRIST: HIS INCARNATION AND HIS DESCENT INTO HADES; IN BOTH OF THESE IT WAS TO LIBERATE THE CAPTIVES.
CHRISTMAS DAY 2005 HE ASCENDED ON HIGH AND GAVE GIFTS TO MEN
THIS IS THE DAY IN WHICH WE CELEBRATE THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST!
What did he say? Has our pastor’s mind wandered off again? Doesn’t he know this is Christmas, not Easter?
I can hear my mother’s voice “what are you thinking?” Or comedian Jonathan Winter, an Ohio native whose female ancestors undoubtedly asked, “Are you out of your ever lovin mind?”
No. Think of it this way.
Not only was a homeless child born outside a hospital, even outside a normal dwelling 2000 years ago, a similar event occurred somewhere in this world last night.
There are itinerant, immigrant, and homeless families all over this world. So many there are in the inner cities and poorer sections of cities in this and other countries of the world that many on hearing of another such birth, or seeing ill clad, ill fed poor children shake their heads and look on in dismay and wonder about the irresponsibility of some people.
In the England of Charles Dicken’s day, the novelist in A Christmas Carol preached to Christians everywhere when he affirmed that the poor were not simply a burden on a productive society to be viewed as “over population.” He showed that even a poor child with disabilities is a gift from heaven. The heaven sent child pronounced a blessing on the whole community, ”God bless us everyone.”
Tiny Tims are everywhere present. Children born without proper homes may be found in every part of the globe. What is so special about 1 child born so long ago?
The evangelists, Matthew and Luke, write a preface to the infant’s life, telling of the expectation of a nation that a child would be born who would bring back the monarchy of David and reestablish the pre-eminence of Jerusalem and Judea in the region.
It was expected, in a Messianic Paslm – that is a Christ Psalm 68 - that this Savior-King would represent God arising, scattering the enemies of the people.
Psalm 68:19 reads “18You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that the LORD God may dwell there.”
The Early Christians seized on this Psalm and writings of the prophets in regard to Son of God, Christ, Shepherd of Israel and Savior, and saw in them promises of the Heavenly Father to bring salvation from the evil world to the faithful from who looked to God for help. This hope was tied up with the bringing of justice in this world to the down trodden as well as the hope of bringing in the Everlasting Kingdom that would embrace all peoples in all times.
Matthew writes of the visit of the Kings, Wisemen from the East. Psalm 68 gave a hint as do the prophets of the coming of the nations to the God of Israel, bringing tribute.
28Summon your power, O God,
the power, O God, by which you have worked for us.
29Because of your temple at Jerusalem
kings shall bear gifts to you.
30Rebuke the beasts that dwell among the reeds,
the herd of bulls with the calves of the peoples.
Trample underfoot those who lust after tribute;
scatter the peoples who delight in war.[f]
31Nobles shall come from Egypt;
Cush shall hasten to stretch out her hands to God.
32O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God;
sing praises to the Lord,
33to him who rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens;
behold, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice.
34Ascribe power to God,
whose majesty is over Israel,
and whose power is in the skies.
35Awesome is God from his[g] sanctuary;
the God of Israel--he is the one who gives power and strength to his people.
Blessed be God!
This theme, the coming of the world to God is a theme found in the Bible from the beginning of Israel’s story to the book of Revelation.
Our grandest English Music, Handel’s Messiah, also celebrates this theme. There was a time when the Mid East, parts of Africa and Europe and the Americas could see this reign of Christ not only a religious hope, but a political reality. There was a time when Good King Wenceslas was a Christian King, as were the princes in Germany, all the Nordic countries, Russia, France, Spain and England.
To be a Christian Monarch was expected of those invested in political power. It was the norm. When one spoke of a Christian nation, everyone had some idea of what that meant.
Jesus was born into a pre-Christian world, not so different from our own. “The powers that be”, in the days of Jesus Christ and St Paul may have been ordained by God, but those powers did not know it. Roman rulers tolerated religions, but the rulers did not fear or give credence to gods. Pilate’s question to the beaten and thorn-crowned Jesus, “Are you a king?” was nothing more than a dismissal, a mockery; though his wife had a premonition of a greater essence in this humbled Jew.