The Celebration of Christmas: The Birth of Christ

The Celebration of Christmas

Christmas is a celebration of the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God, the Word made flesh in the world. It celebrates the birth of Christ.

The Birth of Christ

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. [2] This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. [3] And all went to be registered, each to his own town. [4] And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, [5] to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

[6] And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. [7] And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. [8] And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. [9] And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. [10] And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. [11] For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. [12] And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” [13] And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, [14] “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” [15] When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

[16] And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. [17] And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. [18] And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. [19] But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. [20] And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

~ Luke 2.1-20 (ESV)

The Mystery of the Incarnation

Christmas celebrates the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God, the Word made flesh. He enters the world to reveal the Father’s love to humankind, to destroy the devil’s work, and to redeem his people from their sins. Although the highest Christological reflection has sought to plumb the depths of this mystery, only faith, awe, and worship can draw near to its richness. In order to redeem humankind from its waywardness, to reconcile creation that was cursed at the Fall, to destroy the enemies of God, and to reveal the Father’s glory to the world, the eternal Word became a human being. The One through whom the Father created trillions of galaxies by his omnipotent, creative Word, was joined to human likeness, and entered the world as a baby boy. And all this for love and grace.

This grand celebration and time of remembrance is an invitation to wonder, to meditate upon a truth that can easily be recited in the dry theological language of the schools, but can never be fathomed fully. Who can possibly grasp the total meaning of the Christ-child, the One sent and anointed by God to reign forever after he conquered sin and death through his passion? As Christians, we join the shepherds and the Magi at the foot of the baby boy, and quietly, reverently bow with Mary and Joseph under the gleam of the star that rested above him who would one day become King of kings and Lord of lords. His coming is soon, and we eagerly wait still for that time when the prophets’ foretellings will become true. Yes, the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and of this child, and he will reign forever and ever.

At Christmas, believers worldwide celebrate the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem, the Lord Jesus Christ. Together we affirm that Jesus was – and is – God’s only begotten Son, the Word made flesh, and the human son of the Virgin Mary. In him we see the love of God revealed for all humankind. He is God’s mystery that causes broken hearts to marvel and rejoice. This little child would fulfill the prophecy of a Savior who, by dying and rising, would conquer humanity’s mortal enemy, the devil, free us from sin’s bondage and curse, and restore creation under the reign of God. “Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Let earth receive her King!”

Rev. Dr. Don L. Davis

Hark The Herald Angels Sing

“Hark The Herald Angels Sing”
Wesley, Charles / Mendelssohn, Felix

Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.”
Joyful, all ye nations, rise, Join the triumph of the skies;
With angelic hosts proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem.”
Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King.”

Christ, by highest heav’n adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold Him come, Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail, the incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel.
Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King.”

Hail the heav’n born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings, Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Come, Desire of nations, come! Fix in us Thy humble home.
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring seed, Bruise in us the serpent’s head;
Adam’s likeness now efface, Stamp Thine image in its place;
Second Adam from above, Reinstate us in Thy love.
Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King.”

© Public Domain

The Theological Meaning of the Twelve Days of Christmas

by Rev. Terry G. Cornett

The popular song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is often seen as simply a nonsense song for children. Actually, it is a song of Christian instruction with hidden references to the basic teachings of the Faith. Dating to the 16th century religious wars in England, it was a mnemonic device to teach the catechism secretly to youngsters. The “true love” mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The “me” who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the “days” represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important to learn.

A Partridge in a Pear Tree
The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, whose birthday we celebrate on December 25, the first day of Christmas. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge that feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, recalling the expression of Christ’s sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered you under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but you would not have it so . . . .” (Luke 13:34)

Two Turtle Doves
The Old and New Testaments, which together bear witness to God’s self-revelation in history and the creation of a people to tell the Story of God to the world.

Three French Hens
The Three Theological Virtues: 1) Faith, 2) Hope, and 3) Love

Four Calling Birds
The Four Gospels: 1) Matthew, 2) Mark, 3) Luke, and 4) John, which proclaim the Good News of God’s reconciliation of the world to Himself in Jesus Christ.

Five Gold Rings
The first Five Books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch: 1) Genesis, 2) Exodus, 3) Leviticus, 4) Numbers, and 5) Deuteronomy, which gives the history of humanity’s sinful failure and God’s response of grace in the creation of a people to be a light to the world.

Six Geese A-laying
The six days of creation that confesses God as Creator and Sustainer of the world (Genesis 1).

Seven Swans A-swimming
The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: 1) prophecy, 2) ministry, 3) teaching, 4) exhortation, 5) giving, 6) leading, and 7) compassion (Rom. 12:6-8).

Eight Maids A-milking
The eight Beatitudes: 1) Blessed are the poor in spirit, 2) those who mourn, 3) the meek, 4) those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 5) the merciful, 6) the pure in heart, 7) the peacemakers, 8) those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. (Matt. 6:3-10)

Nine Ladies Dancing
The nine Fruit of the Holy Spirit: 1) love, 2) joy, 3) peace, 4) patience, 5) kindness, 6) generosity, 7) faithfulness, 8) gentleness, and 9) self-control.

Ten Lords A-leaping
The ten commandments: 1) You shall have no other gods before me; 2) Do not make an idol; 3) Do not take God’s name in vain; 4) Remember the Sabbath Day; 5) Honor your father and mother; 6) Do not murder; 7) Do not commit adultery; 8) Do not steal; 9) Do not bear false witness; 10) Do not covet. (Exod. 20:1-17)

Eleven Pipers Piping
The eleven Faithful Apostles: 1) Simon Peter, 2) Andrew, 3) James, 4) John, 5) Philip, 6) Bartholomew, 7) Matthew, 8) Thomas, 9) James bar Alphaeus, 10) Simon the Zealot, 11) Judas bar James. The list does not include the twelfth disciple, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus to the Romans.

Twelve Drummers Drumming
The twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed: 1) I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. 2) I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. 3) He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. 4) He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell [the grave]. 5) On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 6) He will come again to judge the living and the dead. 7) I believe in the Holy Spirit, 8) the holy catholic Church, 9) the communion of saints, 10) the forgiveness of sins, 11) the resurrection of the body, 12) and life everlasting.