Opening: Today is Christmas Day. Like all the days we live, it is a day of news. Things have happened and they should be told. But not only is Christmas a day of news, it is a day of good news. Good things have happened and should know about them. Even better, Christmas is a day of very good news. Wonderful things have happened and we simply must know about them. On this festival day, we want to consider three of the best news items that make this day so special. We will listen to the inspired words of the prophet Isaiah as he shares them with us.
1. Christmas Is The Day God Comes And Takes Control Of The Situation
“Your God reigns. Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the Lord returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.” (Isaiah 52:7b-8)
One of the items that makes Christmas a day of very good news is the powerful announcement that “Christmas is the day God comes and takes control of the situation.” In his prophecy, Isaiah spoke about the return of released exiles to Israel after the long and bitter Babylonian captivity ended in 536 B.C. The news that people, who were once banished from the land because of their sins, had been set free and were returning to their homeland was a sign of a great reversal in fortunes. It signaled that God had intervened in human history to change the course of history for the better and to fulfill His plans of bringing blessing to the world. “The Lord reigns!” Isaiah joyfully declared.
On Christmas Day, we recognize the astounding truth that the Lord does indeed reign. Because of sin, God’s once-perfect world became a terrible mess. All the world’s people were caught up in and consumed by their sin. Confusion and chaos, disorder and death prevailed. Spiritual darkness descended everywhere and enveloped everyone. No one had the answer. Everyone was at a loss what to do about it. It was into this story of gloom that God entered. He began with promises of aid, dozens and dozens of them revealed by Him through the prophets century after century. It was on these sacred promises that people could and did hang their hopes for help and deliverance. Then, after years and years of making promises, God kept the great promise. He came into the world. He came as one fully human. Yet He retained His complete divinity. He came to provide what no one else could. He came to help and to lead. He came to take responsibility for our burden and our penalty under God’s laws. He came to take control of the situation for us.
It is a great blessing to have a caring and competent person in charge of things. Just as it is a great tragedy to have no to help in times of dire need and great danger. In the birth of Jesus, God comes to be with us and to take control on our behalf. A baby lying in a manger in a Bethlehem stable may seem like a rather weak and underwhelming way for God to establish His rule. Yet in the humble birth of Jesus, God makes a substantial entry point into the world He comes to help. In the small child of Mary, born among animals in David’s tiny town, God established a solid beachhead from which He would branch out and fight and conquer our enemies for us. Christmas is the all important beginning of deliverance. God comes and takes control of the situation for us. Christmas is a day of very good news.
2. Christmas Is The Day God Comes To Redeem And Save Us
“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation. The Lord has redeemed Jerusalem. All the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God. (Isaiah 52:7,9b,10b)
A second item that makes Christmas Day a day of very good news is the beautiful proclamation that Christmas is the day God comes to redeem and save us. In Isaiah’s 2,700 year old prophecy, the prophet rejoiced in God’s great deliverance of people from a long bondage and a bitter exile from their homeland. He spoke of the return of the Israelites who were making their way home after decades of banishment. He praised the messenger who led the procession and who heralded the good news of freedom and peace. The Lord had redeemed Jerusalem. The ends of the earth could see the salvation that comes from our God.
On Christmas Day, we savor the good news that God comes to redeem and save us. “To save” means to rescue or deliver. “To redeem” means to pay a ransom or to buy back a person in slavery or imprisonment. The words “save” and “redeem” tell a story of need, our need. We need to be delivered. We are captives, caught up in a terrible slavery, and a very large price must be paid for our release. What makes the story truly sad is that we have put ourselves in this position. By our sins, we have sold ourselves into spiritual slavery, under the control and condemnation of sin. We have no power and no resources to free ourselves. It is a slavery that means separation from God, being at the mercy of sinful forces, and suffering the pains of eternal punishment.
The words “save” and “redeem” also tell another story, a story of love. They tell the story of God’s Christmas love. In the person of the Baby Jesus, God makes an important statement about what He thinks of us. If you look at our situation only through the lens of cold, hard justice, there is no hope for us. God is holy and just. We are sinful and corrupt. We have offended God’s justice repeatedly. Quite often, we have been indifferent and unresponsive to His commands to love. If you asked the question, “Do sinners like us deserve to be saved?” the resounding answer of justice is “No.” But the God of justice is also the God of love, a God of grace who shows love to people apart from their deserving it. Christmas shows that God loves sinners and wants to save them. God shows His love by sending Jesus, who enters life in Bethlehem so that He can later offer His life outside Jerusalem as the high and necessary payment for our freedom from sin and death. Christmas reveals the sincerity and the depth of God’s love for sinners. Christmas is more than the birth of a baby; it is the birth of our Redeemer; it is the birth of our Savior. It is a day of very good news. It is the day God comes to redeem and save us.
3. God Comes To Renew And Restore Us
“Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted His people. The Lord will lay bare His holy arm in the sight of all nations.” (Isaiah 52:9-10a)
A third matter that makes Christmas a day of very good news is the heartening truth that God comes to renew and restore us. When Isaiah wrote his prophecy, he spoke about God coming to bring relief and renewal to the city of Jerusalem. In 586 B.C. the ruthless Babylonian army literally leveled the city of Jerusalem. The walls were knocked down. Its buildings were burned and toppled. Even the magnificent temple of Jerusalem was looted and destroyed. 70 years later, when the exiles started to return to Israel and Jerusalem, the city still lay in ruins, desolate and defenseless. It was to this scene that Isaiah spoke. He told about the Lord who would bring comfort to those without it, who would use His strength to restore what was ruined, who would bring joy to those who had nothing to cheer them.
Christmas is the day God comes to renew and restore, not a ruined city, but the ruined lives of people. Sin has not only enslaved us. It has also ruined us. If you compare any of our lives to that of Adam and Eve at the time of their creation, we can only weep tears of sadness. For now, we are only a shell of the complete and perfect people that God originally made. Our youth and beauty quickly fade. Our strength of mind and body slips and fades. Our love is imperfect and flawed with selfishness. People are not now what they once were. Further decline and decay await us all.
At Christmas God came to the world He made and saw suffer under the burden of sin. He came not only to redeem and rescue it and then leave it alone. He also came to renew and restore its sin-ravaged people. Jesus goes from heaven to Bethlehem so that He can go many other places. He comes to the world so that He can come into our hearts and lives and make them new and good and strong. The sending of Jesus at Christmas is God’s sincere declaration that He comes with His comfort and strength to rebuild our lives. Jesus comes to restore our relationship with God. He comes to give us confidence that God loves and forgives us our sins. He comes to assure us that God makes us His children and heirs of eternal blessings. Jesus comes to create a new nature with holy desires and a true love in our hearts. He comes to make us willing to do God’s good will and seek God’s honor and the good of others as we operate our lives. He comes with the promise that one day He will raise us from physical death and give us a perfected body joined to a purified soul that will live in the glorious home where He will live with us in complete comfort, joy and strength.
Today is Christmas Day. It is a day of very good news for us and all who will receive it. It is the day of Jesus’ birth. It is the entrance of God’s Son into the human family. It is the day God comes and takes capable control of our situation. It is the day God comes to give His very self to redeem and to save us. It is the day God comes to with His comfort and strength to renew and restore us. It is a day to rejoice in this wonderful news. It is a day to praise God from the depths of our soul. It is a day to be sure to tell others the very good news God has for them. Amen.