Summary: We’re heading into the Christmas season, and in a few weeks we’ll be looking at gifts under the Christmas tree. What was the best or worst Christmas gift that you remember?
How many of you can remember a Christmas gift that you wanted, oh, so badly?
Illustration: For me, one of the best gifts ever came to me way back in 1967 when I was in grade school. There was a toy truck called the “Johnny Express (TM) that I wanted so bad, I could taste it (a figure of speech we used back then)! Sure enough, on Christmas Day, there it was! I learned a little about steering a truck by remote control, how to make it turn, how to back it up—a little—and, even, how to “jackknife” the thing! I had so much fun with that thing! Of course it goes without saying that some other gifts were. . .. not so much fun, but that’s another story.
The text comes from John’s gospel, chapter 1, verses:1-12. This is not really considered a Christmas Day text but it is an excellent summary of what our Lord Jesus Christ did for us, so that He might give us salvation.
1 He came unto His own
--Prophecy that He would be born into this world.
John says that “He (Jesus) came unto His own” and that could mean a couple of different, but related, items. The first is the very world He had made! He came to His own creation, His own handiwork, remembering, no doubt, that at the end of Creation Week (Genesis 1) that it was “all very good”.
But that wasn’t all. He, Jesus, also came to His own chosen people! We probably remember any number of prophecies, such as Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6 and Micah 5:2—naming three—that indicate Messiah would be born into Israel. Jesus fulfilled all of these prophecies, and even more, when He was born.
Compare this with the “birth” of some pagan deities! If I recall correctly, in Greek mythology Zeus, the chief “god” or deity had a terrible headache one day. Somehow his skull was split open and out popped Athena, the “goddess” of something or other. Aphrodite, the “goddess” of love, was carried to the sea shore inside a giant clam shell or oyster or something, and she stepped out! There are other stories from other pagan religions about the “birth” of their deities. Contrast these stories with the simple narratives found in Matthew’s gospel and Luke’s gospel.
Which birth story would you prefer? For me, it’s an obvious choice!
--Prophecy that He would reign as King (Dan 2 and 7)
Now, besides the prophecies that Jesus would be born into Israel, there were other prophecies telling how He would come and reign as King. Daniel, chapters 2 and 7, give great detail about the events leading up to the Kingdom and how it would be established. Several of the Psalms speak about the King of Israel, a Person much different than any human ruler could ever be (see Psalm 2 and 24 for two examples).
--He was born to die, and rise again, before He reigns as King
Then, after He began His public ministry, the first sermon He ever preached was the “Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), where He explained the principles of the Kingdom of Heaven. Before this, John the Baptist had preached “the Kingdom of Heaven is near! (Matthew 3:2)”, making this a formal announcement that the King was ready to set up the Kingdom. Clearly, that didn’t happen: the Jews rejected this offer of the kingdom and crucified their King (e.g., Mark 15:32 and John 19:15). Regardless, the prophecy that the King would come was fulfilled—and that was another reason why Jesus came to this earth, and unto His own.
He not only brought the gifts—He was and is THE Gift!
2 His own received Him not
--Born into a despised, hated people
Most of us remember that when Jesus was born, Israel was firmly under control of the Roman government. Israel, in fact, had never been a sovereign or independent nation for hundreds of years, not since the “Babylonian Captivity” of 588 BC or thereabouts. Israel had been under the rule of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome itself—just as Daniel had prophesied to King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2.
Even worse, Israel seems to have been a hated, despised nation for centuries! They were forced into slavery by the Egyptians; attacked by any number of enemies; conquered by some of these same foes; and for many years suffered civil war between two groups of the Twelve Tribes. The books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, plus Judges, give detailed information about this.
--Born into a rebellious people
Now, if there was one word to describe Israel, it would be rebellious! Look at how many times Israel had rebelled against God, starting with the golden calf they began to worship while Moses was on the mountain with God! In Judges there are several times when Israel forsook the True God and worshiped any number of pagan deities. Even God said that He had spread out His hands to a rebellious people (Isaiah 65:2, paraphrased).