My wife has OCD (Obsessive Christmas Disorder). It is a condition that endears me to her all the more each year as she decorates our house and fills it with all the smells and sounds of the Christmas season. And why not, after all it is the greatest holiday of the year. While every other holiday receives a day or a weekend of celebration, Christmas gets the entire season following Thanksgiving and throughout the month of December. And, of course, it is a season filled with what has been referred to as the ‘Christmas spirit’. Our cultural atmosphere seems to marinate with anticipation and hope for something special…something supernatural…something that makes everything better than it has been. For Christ followers we know the merriment of this season revolves around the birth of Jesus. For others, the season is merry and bright, and yet somewhat lacking in clarity and purpose.
So in the handful of weeks we have before us, I want to draw our attention back to the sacred simplicity that supplies all the merriment and beauty of this season. Paul sums it up well when he writes of the Messiah’s birth in Galatians 4:4-5:
But when the fullness of time had come, 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.
The Old Testament narrative with its covenants, the law, the sacrificial system and much more, all seem to demonstrate the need for a Messiah. But not just a Messiah for the Jewish people, rather He would come to set the whole world free. You see the miracle of Christmas is that the birth of Jesus would mean the new birth for all who believe. The coming of the Messiah would mean the deliverance of Jew and Greek, those free and those who were slaves.
The temporary access provided through an altar and sacrificial system in the Old Testament, gives way to the continual presence of the Savior under a new covenant. The altar where animals were sacrificed has now been replaced with a Redeemer who has been crucified, once and for all.
That is why the angel said to the shepherds on the night of Christ’s birth:
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.
Let us never forget that Jesus was born as the Savior who would redeem, and make possible our adoption as sons and daughters of God. We no longer journey to an altar so that a someone could sacrifice an animals blood on our behalf. When Jesus was born, the altar came to us for he is Immanuel (meaning ‘God with us’). God’s great provision for our lives is God’s enduring presence in our lives. You see the great miracle and meaning of Christmas is that in Christ the altar becomes our address.