We humans love gifts, love the joy of opening and exploring gifts. But most of all we love giving gifts to those special to us, especially our children, grandchildren, nephews, and nieces, and watching the expressions of awe, wonder and delight as they open them.
This Christmas we should all have a sense of awe, wonder and delight as we ponder God’s gift to us, the Lord Jesus. The prophet Isaiah, hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, predicted his coming and said he would be born of a virgin and be known as Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14).
And Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth tells us how that prophesy was fulfilled. Mary and Joseph called Jesus Immanuel — which means “God with us”. He will save his people, us, from our sins (Matthew 1:23).
Jesus is God’s gift to us — we know we need not walk alone. And this is a vital truth to hold on to, as life was not meant to be easy. The apostle Paul held on to it. He declared, “I can do anything through [Jesus] who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).
This was not an empty cry as Paul faced severe emotional, physical, and spiritual struggles and yet he could still proclaim, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecution, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Christ brings strength for the tough days. The apostle Peter, who knew both fear and failure, exhorted, “Cast all your anxiety on him [Jesus] because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
But sadly, today there are those who want us to doubt this gift, this special gift of Jesus. “Oh, Jesus is just a myth you hear.” Books by atheists like Richard Dawkins are in all our bookshops. They mock the message. Jesus never existed, some claim. Last Christmas there was the report of a major book chain in London, which also operates in Australia, handing out a Christmas card which read “O Come, All Ye Faithless”.
Be assured this message of Jesus being God’s gift to us is historical and true. Did you know that from secular non-Christian historians from around the time of Christ, Jewish and Roman, we learn the following about Jesus — we learn this without even opening our Bibles:
· His name — “Jesus”
· The place and time of his public ministry (Palestine during Pontius Pilate’s governorship, AD 26–36)
· The name of his mother (Mary)
· That there was a debate about the nature of his birth
· The name of one of his brothers (James)
· His fame as a teacher
· His fame as a miracle-worker
· The attribution to him of the title “Messiah/Christ”
· His “kingly” status in the eyes of some
· The time and manner of his execution (crucifixion around the Passover festival)
· The involvement of both the Roman and Jewish leadership in his death
· The coincidence of an eclipse at the time of his crucifixion
· The report of Jesus’ appearances to his followers after his death
· The flourishing of a movement that worshipped Jesus after his death.
This Christmas season how will we respond to the greatest gift of all, Jesus? Let me suggest that whether we are kings, lowly shepherds, or seekers (wise men), there is only one appropriate response and that is to abandon all other gods and worship Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Worship, of course, means to serve him with every fibre of our being. To live lives pleasing to him and to stand for his values. To be a follower of the Lord Jesus.
Rev Dr Ross Clifford AM is the Principal of Morling College (NSW Baptist) and author of numerous books many of which focus on Christian Apologetics. He is a Vice President of the Baptist World Alliance, President of the Asian Baptist Association, an acclaimed international preacher and speaker, a columnist in many Christian publications, winner of many national and international awards and for many years the Sunday evening Sydney Radio 2CH host. Ross is married to Bev, father and grand father.