By Peter Amsterdam
It’s Christmastime—such a wonderful time of year! I love it when it comes around every year, because as Christmas approaches, people tend to appreciate others more. They’re more aware of the importance of family and friends, and they’re often more giving and willing to help the poor and needy. Generally speaking, there’s more love in the air during the Christmas season. I just love that!
Something in particular that I love about this time of year is that people seem more receptive to hearing about Jesus as Christmas approaches. That’s a wonderful thing, as it gives us greater opportunities to share Him with others.
Over these last few days I’ve been meditating on the significance of Christmas and what a wonderful day it is. Christmas celebrates the most important birth in human history, when God the Son physically entered into the world as both God and man in Jesus. Never before or since has such a unique and important person been born.
On that momentous day an angel appeared to announce His birth to the shepherds who were watching their sheep at night. When he did, the glory of the Lord shone around the shepherds. They were afraid. The angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10–11 ESV) After he announced the birth of the Savior, suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:13–14 NKJV)
As I was thinking about what the angel announced, I was reminded of another event that had to do with Jesus’ birth. Since Jesus was Mary’s first child, according to the Mosaic Law He was to be presented in the temple for purification. When Joseph and Mary brought him to the temple for this purpose, there was an old man there named Simeon to whom the Holy Ghost had revealed “that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, ‘Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.’” (Luke 2:26–32 ESV)
These two proclamations—one by the angel who stated, “I am bringing good news of great joy that will be for all people,” and one through Simeon, who said, “my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles”—express the significance of, as well as the purpose for, the birth of the Son of God. Both proclamations tell us that Jesus came to earth for the sake of the salvation of all who would believe in Him, Jew or gentile. (A gentile was anyone who was not a Jew. During the time of Jesus, salvation was available to the Jews, because of their belief in the One True God, the God of Israel, and their adherence to the Laws of Moses. The gentiles, generally speaking, couldn’t receive salvation unless they converted to Judaism. Everyone who wasn’t Jewish born, and had not converted to Judaism, was called a gentile. Jesus’ death made salvation available to everyone.) Salvation, they proclaimed, is available to everyone through Jesus.
Jesus’ birth, His coming to earth, His becoming human, was all about the salvation of humankind. His birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven were all about salvation—yours, mine, and everyone else’s.
The message of Christmas is the message of John 3:16, and I would add verse 17 as well: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (ESV).
Whoever believes.—That the world might be saved through Him. Salvation is available to all. It’s God’s gift to us in Jesus—God’s Christmas gift to mankind.
While God has given the gift, our commission as Christians is to help deliver it. In Christmastime parlance, we would be looked on like Santa Claus—the person who delivers the gift. It reminds me of something the apostle Paul said. “For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:13–14 NKJV)
How will they know of the life-changing Christmas gift that’s available to them? How will they hear about it? Who will tell them? Who can be Santa Claus, bringing the most valuable gift ever offered, everlasting life? The answer is all of us Christians. We are those preachers, we are those witnesses, we are those messengers, and at Christmastime we are those Santa Clauses who help deliver the gift.
He left the glory of heaven to come to earth to make salvation available to all. He paid the price so that we could freely receive His gift, and we have received it. We have the riches of everlasting life. There are those who don’t. The joy of it is that we have the privilege of giving those same riches to others, of passing out the best gift ever given. Of course, it costs us to do so. It takes time, and we have to make the effort to strike up that conversation with a stranger, or to get deeper with some of our friends or co-workers, or to request contributions or collect food or toys or other items for distribution to the needy.
The reason we make these efforts is so that we can offer the gift, because the one who is the gift asks it of us. We love Him. We serve Him. We follow Him. He came for the salvation of the world, and as His disciples we play a role in making Him known to others. We not only have the joy of our own salvation, but we have the extra joy of participating in the salvation of others. I love that we all get to be Santa Claus at this time of year.
Every effort, small or great, to share God’s greatest gift—Jesus—with others is important, because every effort makes it possible for someone to know Him. It’s a beautiful thing to share this gift with others. “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15 NKJV)
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