The squeaky brakes on the garbage truck outside our house earlier this morning alerted our 6-month old puppy Indiana to start barking at the inside of our front door. Although the dependable trash collectors had already gone on to others streets and houses when we finally went outside, Indy still went straightway to the trash cans and barked ferociously until I was able to convince her that the threat from the two empty containers was minimal, if not non-existent. Silly puppy.
Which started me thinking: We live in a world filled with fear-inducing elements around each turn – real effects of the curse causing natural disasters or evidence of the evil springing from man’s fallen heart producing destruction and devastation in unspeakable ways – the underlying theme is fear culminating in the thing that subjects all of us to a life-long fear: death itself.
That is what makes celebrating Christmas unique among the many so-called solutions to the human condition. One of the clear messages of Christmas is that there is no longer a need to fear.
When the angel appeared to the shepherds on the Judean hillside his first words were, “Fear not.” The reason for the greeting quickly followed: “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.” A Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Jesus came in order to seek and save those that are lost and in need of deliverance.
One of the special music pieces our church choir presented this past Sunday was The First Noel. It was a beautiful song with an important reminder. The first Noel, the angels did say, was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay … Noel: Born is the King of Israel. Tradition has it that when Christmas carol The First Noel was penned, the word, nowell was a abridged version of the Christmas greeting: “Now all is well!” Similar to how the word farewell is used when we say goodbye: a condensed “Fare thee well!”
At Christmas we celebrate God providing a way of peace between a holy God and sinful man. The only possibility that any of us can say with confidence that ‘all is well’ is found in Jesus Christ alone. In His wisdom, God determined to send the eternal Son of God to take on flesh and blood – “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
‘Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate Deity, pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.’ Jesus was God in the flesh so that through His righteous life He alone is able to provide a way of peace with God and through His death secure salvation from the punishment our sins deserve by taking God’s wrath upon Himself on the cross.
The Savior willingly chose to be ‘wrapped in swaddling cloths’ in order that His perfect life, substitutionary death and victorious resurrection from the grave could fill the words “Fear not” with real power.
Hebrews 2:14-15 describes it this way: “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
The invitation to receive Christ’s free gift of salvation is open to all types of sinners from every age, race and class of people. Lord, help me and as many others as You are pleased to draw to Yourself, to acknowledge the need for a Savior, believe that Jesus Christ is that Savior, confess Him as Lord and live life in humble reliance on His grace until the end of our days.
To borrow encouragement from another Christmas carol: “Now ye need not fear the grave, peace! Peace! Jesus Christ was born to save! Calls you one and calls you all to gain His everlasting hall; Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!”