Christmas B.C.

Bible Book: Isaiah  7 : 14
Subject: Christmas; Jesus, Birth of
Introduction

Long before this world had heard of such things as Christmas trees, Christmas lights, silver bells, or jingle bells, a fiery Jewish prophet named Isaiah looked out over the peaks of the future and wrote about Christmas.

The prophet Isaiah, however, wrote nothing about Santa Claus. There is no mention in his Christmas story about presents and parties, cards and carols. There is nothing in his Christmas prophecy about rushing to the mall, or reindeer on the roof.

You see, Isaiah's Christmas story was written long before any of those things were a part of the holiday season. In fact, Isaiah wrote about Christmas before there was a Christmas. Isaiah's Christmas story is the Christmas story B.C. Some 700 years before the birth of Christ, Isaiah penned the words of our text. He wrote, "Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."

With succinctness, and yet with amazing clarity, the prophet summed up what would come to be the Christmas story. In his words, we find the truths of Christmas boiled down to their essence.

As we quickly approach the frantic and frazzled holiday that Christmas has become, it is good to look back at the words of Isaiah, and remember the fundamental truths of what Christmas is really all about. Long before Christmas became all that it is today, it was just what Isaiah described. It was a birth, and it was a blessing.

There are three truths that we draw from Isaiah's prophetic Christmas story, and each of them serves to remind us of the real meaning of Christmas. Notice with me first of all that Isaiah reminds us of:

I. The Message Of Christmas

At its heart, Christmas is a message. It is a story to be told, and word to be shared, a sermon to be preached, and a song to be sung.

Christmas is not really something you do. Christmas is something you share. Notice how verse 14 begins. Isaiah says, "Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign..."

That first Christmas was not a holiday; it was a communication. It was a communication from the Lord Himself. The first Christmas was God reaching down to communicate to man in a language he could understand - the person of Jesus Christ.

Notice with me a couple of things about this message of Christmas.

A. It Is A Heavenly Message

Again in verse 14, Isaiah says, "The Lord Himself shall give you a sign..." The message of Christmas comes straight from the heart of God.

Man may have concocted much of what Christmas is today, with Santa Claus and Christmas trees, but the real Christmas message comes from God Himself. The story of the virgin mother, and the little boy to whom she gave birth that night, is a story that was penned in mind of God, motivated by the love of God, and performed by the power of God.

Long before Christmas became a secular holiday, it was a sacred message from God. The story of Christmas, when you separate it from all the secular trappings, is a heavenly message.

If you ask the average child to tell you what Christmas is about, they would probably say something about Santa Claus. The story of Santa Claus began in the fourth century with a man named St. Nicholas. Nicholas was said to have given all of his possessions to the poor, and to have raised two children from the dead. He therefore became known as the giver of gifts, and someone who was very special to children.i

The modern Santa Claus, clothed in red, and riding a sleigh, is a character that largely developed from Clement Moore's poem The Night Before Christmas, which was published in 1823. The Santa Claus side of Christmas is synthetic, and largely silly. It is the man-made Christmas. However, the real message of Christmas is not man-made. The story of Christ's birth is a heavenly message!

Notice something else Isaiah teaches us about the message of Christmas. It is not only a heavenly message, but notice something further.

B. It Is A Hopeful Message

Look again at verse 14. Isaiah says, "...the Lord Himself shall give you a sign..." Notice that word sign. It is translated from a Hebrew word that literally means a miraculous and awe-inspiring event.

The message of Christmas was the message of a miracle. Through Christ's birth, God said, "I am going to do something. I am going to intervene on man's behalf."

In the Garden of Eden man fell, and as a result all of humanity suffered from the disease of sin. The blood of sacrificial animals offered a covering, but no cure. On that first Christmas, God spoke up with a hopeful message. He said, "I have a cure for sin's disease."

The message of Christmas is a hopeful message. It tells men and women that God has miraculously and wonderfully intervened on their behalf in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.

When Mary rocked that new-born baby, she held the hope of all humanity. She held in her arms God's hopeful message.

There was a survey taken several years ago that found that over 45% of people said they dreaded the holiday season. The top reasons given for disliking the holiday were: (1) Christmas has become to commercial; (2) A feeling that everyone is having a better time than you; and (3) spending far too much money.

While many people do face the holiday with dread and anxiety, those feelings have nothing to do with the true message of Christmas. At the heart of Christmas there is a heavenly and hopeful message for all mankind. The Lord Himself communicates with man through Christmas. The challenge is for us to remember what God is saying to us at Christmas.

Notice something else we see in Isaiah's Christmas story. Notice not only that we see the message of Christmas, but notice also secondly that we see:

II. The Miracle Of Christmas

Look again with me at our text, and notice Isaiah's words. He says in verse 14, "Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son..."

The only Christmas miracle that many people know about is Hollywood's Miracle on 34th Street. However, the real Christmas miracle did not take place on a movie set. The real miracle of Christmas took place in a lowly stable, in an obscure place called Bethlehem.

In Isaiah's Christmas prophecy we are reminded of the miraculous birth of Christ, and the implications it has on our world. Notice with me a couple of things about this miracle of Christmas.

A. The Miraculous Process

The skeptics would doubt, the scientist would scoff, and the doctors would laugh at what Isaiah says in verse 14. He prophesied that "...a virgin shall conceive..."

On the human side, admittedly, it makes no sense. We know how babies are made. We know the biological and physiological impossibility of a pregnant virgin. The truth is that even Mary had a little trouble with the idea when she was first told by the angel. In Luke chapter one, Mary asked in verse 34, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?"

On its surface, the notion of a virgin birth is a senseless and impossible thing. That is why for thousands of years infidels and theologians alike have doubted and questioned what the Bible says about the birth of Christ. When you look at it from a human perspective, the virgin birth is impossible. However, to view the virgin birth from a human perspective is to leave God out of the equation.

In Luke chapter one, the angel told Mary, "For with God nothing shall be impossible." The virgin birth was not a merely human event; it was a divine miracle! The miraculous process of the virgin birth reminds us that God can do the impossible! Christmas is a miracle of God! It is the miracle of God becoming flesh. It is the miracle of God bypassing human ways in order to save humankind.

Notice something else about the miracle of Christmas. Notice not only the miraculous process, but notice something further.

B. The Miraculous Person

Isaiah said, "...a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son..." The miracle of Christmas is found not only in the miraculous process, but in the Son that the miraculous process produced.

The "Son" that Isaiah refers to in verse 14 was not just any ordinary son. He was in the words of John, "the only begotten Son of God."

The miracle of Christmas is the miracle of the God-man; the Man Christ Jesus. He was fully God, and yet He was fully man. God miraculously and mysteriously became flesh that first Christmas, and the result was the Lord Jesus.

One writer put it this way,

"A baby's hands in Bethlehem,

Were small and softly curled,

But held within their dimpled grasp,

The hope of all the world."

That night, with all of heaven watching, along with a few barn animals, the God of heaven took on a human body. It is a mystery. It is a miracle!

Christmas may seem anything but miraculous today, with its hectic pace, and commercial emphasis. The first Christmas, however, was a miracle that changed the world forever.

May God remind us through the words of the prophet that this Christmas we celebrate a miracle! In a lowly stable, in a lost world, God the Creator was born to a little virgin mother. That birth is the miracle of all miracles.

As we continue looking at the prophet's Christmas story, we find a third and final truth. We see not only the message of Christmas, and the miracle of Christmas, but we learn something also about:

III. The Meaning Of Christmas

Look again at Isaiah's words. He said, "...a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."

Matthew 1:23 tells us that this name "Immanuel" literally means "God with us." In that name we find the true meaning of Christmas. It is a celebration of the fact that in the person of Jesus Christ God has come to be with us.

This name, Immanuel, speaks to us of a couple of things. Notice first of all that it speaks to us of:

A. The Grace Of God

The simple truth that the God would even come to dwell among a race of people such as humanity is a reminder of the overwhelming grace of God.

The Lord Jesus left the glory of heaven for the grind of earth. He left the praises of angels for the punishment of men. He gave up His throne from a manger, His crown for a cross, and His Father for a sin-sick people.

Christmas and grace are synonyms. They are pages in the same book, brushstrokes on the same painting, and verses of the same song. The birth of Jesus Christ into this world, when fully understood, can only be described as the grace of God.

Someone might ask, "What has God done for me?" The answer is simple, and yet eternally profound - He came! When we did not deserve nor desire Him, He came. When the world was not worthy of Him, nor watching for Him, He came!

The star of Bethlehem pointed not just to a new birth, but to a new and glorious manifestation of the grace of God! Hear the cries of that baby lying in the manger. Those are the cries of God's grace!

Winston Churchill once described Russia as, "A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma." In many ways, that could also describe the birth of Jesus Christ. Yet there is one thing that is clear about the birth of our Lord. It was an act of God's grace. Notice something else we see about the meaning of Christmas. The name Immanuel not only points us to the grace of God, but it also points us to:

B. The Gift Of God

When you think of the Christmas story, you think of the baby Jesus, lying there in the manger or being held by His mother. Yet the Christmas story is not just about the baby Jesus. It is about the person of Christ, and what He was born to do.

A preacher named R. Earl Allen wrote, "Near the cradle of Bethlehem stands the cross, God's Christmas tree - you can't make anything else out of it."iii

You can't think of God coming to dwell with us without remembering that God came to die for us. That little baby in the manger would grow up to become the suffering Savior. The meaning of Christmas is ultimately that God sent us a Savior in the person of Christ. He was born to die!

Do you know where the tradition of mistletoe began? The ancient Druids in Northern Europe believed that mistletoe had curative properties, and that it could even cure broken relationships. When two enemies found themselves under a tree with mistletoe, they saw it as a sign from God that they should lay down their weapons and be reconciled.

When Christ was born into this world, He was sent by God to die for our sins so that we could be reconciled with our Creator. Whenever you hear the story of Christmas, realize that the birth of Christ is a sign from God that mankind no longer has to be an enemy of God. Through the gift of His Son, we can be reconciled.

Conclusion

If you are not careful, the rush of modern day Christmas will blur and obscure the truths upon which this holiday was founded. The prophet Isaiah knew nothing about Christmas trees, lights, or an obese man in a red suit sliding down chimneys. What Isaiah did know is that one day God would send forth His Son for the redemption of man. That is the Christmas story B.C.

Wally Purling was a big, clumsy boy who struggled mentally. At age nine, Wally was in the second grade rather than the fourth. At Wally's church they were putting on a children's Christmas play, and Wally was given the part of the inn keeper in Bethlehem. Wally studied his lines over and over again, memorizing them to perfection. As the play began, Wally watched with awe. When the time came for Wally's part, he took his position, and waited for Joseph to knock on the set door. Wally flung the door open and said, "What do you want?" He said the lines in a rough voice, just as the director had told him. Then Wally told Joseph and Mary that the inn was full, and they would have to go somewhere else. When Mary and Joseph turned to walk away, Wally forgot all about the play, and caught up in the emotion of the scene, he cried out, "Wait, you can have my room!"

Wally Purling rewrote the Christmas story, but in doing so he reminds all of us what the story of Christmas should do to our hearts. As we study the words of the Prophet Isaiah, and as we think of Bethlehem's baby, and all that He represents, our hearts should open afresh to the wonder and love of the Lord Jesus.

i The Christ of Christmas; MacArthur, John; study notes; p.17 ii The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart; Swindoll, Charles; p. 294

iii Sign of the Star; Allen, R. Earl; p. 17-18 iv McHenry's Stories for the Soul; p. 39