What Christmas Is All About
Dr. E. Schuyler English, for many years editor of the excellent expository magazine, Our Hope, is a well-known Bible teacher, author, and chairman of the editorial committee of the New Edition of the Scofield Reference Bible. For the past thirty-three years he has been president of The Pilgrim Fellowship, as well as editor of its missionary paper, The Pilgrim. It is from this paper that his current article has been reprinted by permission.
When the editor was in high school at Stony Brook School, Stony Brook, N. Y., Dr. English was a frequent chapel speaker whose ministry was a great blessing to me in those crucial and formative teen years.
God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory (1 Timothy 3:16).
OBSERVE, PLEASE, the word “all” in the title of this article. For what is written here is what Christmas is about in its entirety, not simply partially. God manifested Himself in a human body, the body of an infant on that first Christmas day. Unto us a Child was born. At the same time a Son was given to us (Isaiah 9:6). The Son of God did not come into being then. He always existed in the bosom of the Father (John 1:1, 18). However, He made His entrance on this earth as a baby.
Wherever Christendom subsists the birth of the Saviour is celebrated at
Christmas time with music, gifts, greetings, and hilarity. It must grieve the Godhead — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit — that a sacred occasion which ought to be commemorated in awe and with inward joy is tarnished to a great extent by irreverence that sometimes borders on blasphemy. Yet not everyone forgets or neglects the Person of Christ. There are multitudes who confess His name, i.e. acknowledge Him as the unique Son of God and receive Him into their hearts as Lord and Saviour. In one succinct, poetic statement Scripture reveals six mighty facts about the Son whom God gave to the world as its Redeemer (Luke 2:8-11; John 3:16).
1. God was manifest in the flesh. The birth of Jesus was not an afterthought with God. Back in the eternal past the plan of redemption was drawn. There have been many miraculous events in the divine schedule. In various ways God spoke through His prophets, “but when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). Jesus, who was born in Judaea that day in the fullness of the time, was God manifest in the flesh.
2. Christ was justified by the Spirit. The Son of God visited the world! It was His divine right that His advent should cause all mankind, even nature itself, to bow before Him in veneration and adoration. But no! He was humiliated, rejected and nailed to a cross like a common criminal. God’s prophets and His holy angels wondered concerning the sufferings of the Father’s anointed Son (1 Peter 1:10-12). Then He was vindicated before the world that despised Him; for, after three days in the tomb, He arose. His resurrection was the proof of His divine son-ship (Romans 1:4, 1 Peter 3:18). He was justified by the Holy Spirit.
3. Christ was seen by angels. The allusion suggests much more than the presence of angelic beings at the empty tomb on the first Easter morning. It speaks of the majestic occasion when, after His resurrection and ascension, Christ presented Himself in heaven to the Father in the presence of all His worshiping angels.
4. Christ was proclaimed among the nations. In obedience to the post-resurrection command of the Lord Jesus, His apostles and others of His followers have for twenty centuries borne witness to the ends of the earth concerning God’s saving grace in Christ. Their message — the good news “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
5. Christ was believed on in the world. Although Jesus, God’s Anointed, was rejected when He walked this earth, faith in Him has come to myriads of people throughout the centuries because of the preaching of the Word. They have believed and do believe that Jesus Christ is indeed God’s matchless Son and their personal Saviour (Romans 10:8-10,17; cp. John 5:24; Revelation 5:7-10).
6. Christ was taken up into glory. The resurrected, living Jesus Christ ascended in triumph and glory into heaven, the place of glory. He is seated there now at His Father’s right hand (Hebrews 1:1-3). He will come again, as He promised (John 14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Revelation 22:20). Moreover, throughout the coming ages He will be admired and exalted because of who He is and what He has accomplished. Ten thousand times ten thousand voices will be raised to give Him praise, saying, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and blessing, and glory” (Revelation 5:12).
The good news of Christmas, the story that brings joy to all who know the Lord Jesus Christ in reality, is not only that a Child was born in Bethlehem but also that a Son was given at Calvary to redeem the world (Isaiah 9:6; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:12). This is the message of Christmas. It is what Christmas is all about.