Unto You Is Born This Day
December 1, 2002 - Some 2,000 years ago God sent a message of peace to earth. That message—Jesus Christ—still offers hope to a world filled with confusion and crisis.
A Message by Billy Graham
The first Christmas story—how wonderful it is! Christmas is the most thrilling season of the year. But I think the message of Christmas has been generally misunderstood and misapplied. Some people think only of business profits, of shopping and gifts, of tinsel and toys, of celebrations. Others think only of Bethlehem, of the star in the sky, of shepherds in the field and angels. Still others cynically ask, "Where is the Prince of Peace?"
But the real Christmas message goes much deeper. It answers all the great questions that plague the human race at this, or at any other, hour. The Christmas message is relevant, revolutionary and reassuring in a world of confusion and crisis. It can be summed up in three tremendous events: a birth, a death, and the climax of human history.
First, the birth. On that first Christmas night, the Bible tells of the angel who said to the fearful shepherds, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people" (Luke 2:10, KJV). What is the real meaning of these good tidings?
During various wars, many a mother helps her children remember their father while he is away at war. I heard of one mother who every day showed her young son a large portrait of his father who was away at war. One day the young boy looked long and wistfully at his father's picture and said, "Mom, wouldn't it be great if Dad would just step down from the frame?"
For centuries people have looked into the heavens—longing for God to step out of the frame. At Bethlehem 2,000 years ago God did exactly that. He stepped out of the frame.
That virgin-born Baby was God in human form. He humbled Himself. He took the form of a servant. He took on human form. He identified Himself with our problems and the problems of the entire human race. Thus it was that the Apostle John wrote, "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father)" (John 1:14, KJV).
In the early days of the 19th century the world was following with fear and trembling the march of Napoleon I. Day after day the people waited with impatience for the latest news of the battlefields. And all the while, in the homes, babies were being born. In just one year, midway between the battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo, there came into the world a host of heroes. During that year of 1809, William Gladstone was born in Liverpool, England; Alfred, Lord Tennyson was born in Lincolnshire, England; Oliver Wendell Holmes was born in Massachusetts; Felix Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg, Germany; and Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky.
But people were not thinking of babies. They were thinking of battles. Yet, nearly 200 years later, with a truer perspective that the years enable us to command, we can ask, "Which of the battles of 1809 mattered more than the babies of 1809?"
What a difference the Baby born in Bethlehem's manger 2,000 years ago has made in our world!
Second, the death. Christmas, to have meaning, cannot be separated from the cross. About the birth of Jesus the angel said, "He shall save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21, KJV). Jesus said, speaking of His own death, "To this end was I born" (John 18:37, KJV). Years later the Apostle Paul said to young Timothy, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15, KJV). The central message of Christmas to me is that Jesus Christ—by His death and His resurrection—can transform individuals and society.
Almost everyone, at one time or another, feels that he or she is a moral failure and suffers some form of guilt. Almost every newspaper or magazine that we pick up, and almost every newscast that we watch, shows hate, lust, greed, prejudice and corruption being manifested in a thousand ways every day. The fact that we have policemen, jails and military forces indicates that something is radically wrong with human nature. Every time I board an airplane, someone searches my luggage and my briefcase—and sometimes even my clothes. And I'm made aware again of the disease of human nature.
We are actually a paradox. On the one hand, there is futility and sin; on the other hand, there is goodness, kindness, gentleness and love. On the one hand, we are moral failures; on the other hand, we have capacities that relate us to God. No wonder Paul spoke of our disease as "the mystery of iniquity" (2 Thessalonians 2:7, KJV).
The Bible teaches that the human race is morally sick. The disease has affected every phase of our life in society. The Bible calls this disease "sin." The Bible teaches that we are sinners, and that the only cure for sin is the blood of Christ that was shed on the cross.
At this Christmas season many churches will be celebrating holy communion. The wine is a symbol of the blood that Jesus shed. In ancient Judaism the shedding of blood was to make atonement for sin. The word "blood" in the Old and the New Testaments symbolized a life that was given. Jesus Christ became the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world for the sins of the world. The cross and the resurrection stand as our only hope. It was on Good Friday and Easter that God did for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
From these two momentous events, the birth and the death, God is saying to us, "I love you." He is also saying, "I can forgive you." This is the Good News of Christmas.
But we also must do something. We must humble ourselves and admit our sin and our moral failure. And then by faith we must turn to Him as Savior and Lord. We must say, as the publican did, "God be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13, KJV). The Scripture says, "A broken and a contrite heart God will not despise" (Cf. Psalm 51:17). This is the Good News that the world is morally, psychologically and spiritually looking for right now.
Some people may dismiss it as ridiculous and idiotic. The Apostle Paul wrote, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18, NIV).
We all admit that we need some sweeping social reforms, and in true repentance we need to do something about it. But our greatest need is a change in the heart. That is why Jesus said, "You must be born again" (John 3:7, NIV). That is why He said, "Unless you repent, you too will . . . perish" (Luke 13:5, NIV). Paul, in his famous sermon in Athens, said, "God . . . now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in which he will judge the world" (Acts 17:30-31, KJV).
Who should repent? Everyone. This is what the cross calls for. The heart of the message of the cross is repent or perish. It is as simple as that. And it is also the message of Christmas.
Climax to Human History
Third, the wonderful climax to human history and its glorious hope. We are not wandering around aimlessly. There is hope for us, that there will be a culmination to history as we know it. There is more to Christmas than the birth and the death of Christ. There is also the ultimate triumph of God's Kingdom.
Chiseled into the cornerstone of the United Nations building is a quotation from the Bible: "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isaiah 2:4, KJV). It has often been repeated by men who long for peace. That prophecy has not yet been fulfilled, and it's a thrilling hope at this moment of history.
However, this Bible verse must not be taken out of context. The passage speaks of the time when the Messiah will reign over the entire earth. This is the era of which Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord's Prayer, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10, KJV). This is the time when He who came as a Baby at Bethlehem shall come again as King of kings and Lord of lords.
The Bible teaches that there will be a close to history as we know it. Man will have his last Armageddon. But when it seems that man is about to destroy himself, God will intervene. Christ will return.
At His birth, Jesus was in the stall of an animal. At His death, He wore a crown of thorns. But when He comes again, He will be the Commander-in-Chief of the armies of heaven. He will take control of this war-weary world and bring the permanent peace that we strive for and long for. A new world will be formed. A new social order will emerge.
In the midst of so much gloom and pessimism in many parts of the world—or perhaps even in our own hearts—we are not to wring our hands. Two thousand years ago the angel said to the frightened shepherds, "Fear not." Jesus said, "Let not your heart be troubled. . . . If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again" (John 14:1, 3, KJV).
There is a song titled "The King Is Coming." I love it. The King is coming. And when He comes, sin will be eliminated. Tears will be wiped from every eye. Disease shall be no more. And even death, our greatest enemy, will be eliminated from the human race. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, and wars shall be no more (Cf. Isaiah 2:4). This is the promise of Christmas. This is our hope. This is the Christmas star that lights our evening darkness. This is the assurance that a new day is coming through the Messiah whose name is called by the Prophet Isaiah: "Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6, KJV).
This is God's gift of Christmas. This is the message that meets the need of the human heart.