Our family has a few traditions at Christmas. We let the girls open a gift on Christmas Eve. Hannah and the girls attend as many Christmas Eve services as humanly possible! We watch classic Christmas movies together.
We even have stockings for our two cats (although I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that!).
All told, those aren’t bad traditions. I imagine we could have worse ones … like listening to David Hasselhoff or Roseanne Barr sing Christmas songs.
If you’ve ever seen “Fiddler on the Roof” then you probably remember the main song … tradition, tradition. Few people held more fiercely to their traditions than first century Jews.
For 2,000 years, Jews had a tradition that told them to never bow down and worship any human being as God. Theologically that was idolatry and blasphemy.
We gather today to celebrate Christmas – the birth of Jesus. But we celebrate more than just his birth. We celebrate his incarnation – the belief that God became flesh.
In the weeks leading up to today, we’ve been looking at Old Testament promises and how they came true in Jesus. We began with the virgin birth, then Bethlehem, and finally the characteristics of the mission of Jesus. All of these were predictions that were fulfilled by Jesus.
Today’s passage is another promise that came true.
Nowhere in all the Old Testament does the gospel of Jesus shine more clearly than in Isaiah 53. Written 750 years before the birth of Jesus, this passage beautifully illustrates the salvation story. At the heart of that saving work is substitution, the idea that Jesus took our place … not in the manger but on the cross.
Truth is, you can’t fully understand Christmas if you start with the angelic chorus or the wise men. The story of Christmas began before the angel appeared to Mary. The gift of Christmas is rooted in the heart of God.
The relationship God desired with his creation had been broken by sin and rebellion. So he responded by sending Jesus to repair the breach. That’s why Jesus became our substitute.
Isaiah 53 describes the suffering Jesus faced on our behalf. Here’s just a few samples:
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
What is the promise of Isaiah 53? That your suffering and hardship will not have the last word. Your sorrows, no matter how deep, will not last forever.
How do we know this? The promise fulfilled is described in the New Testament with these words of Paul …
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8).
Sin always brings about suffering and shame. Created to be in relationship with God, sin becomes a cheap replacement. The gospel brings grace and restoration.
This is the promise of Christmas.
My prayer for you is two-fold: that you would know the love God has for you and that you would receive his offer of grace.
How incredible would it be to be born again on the day we gather to celebrate the birth of Jesus!
Experience and Background
- 25+ years of senior leadership experience
- masters in business administration (mba)
- presenter at the WFX National Conference
- former president, Church Planters of the Rockies
- helped start 2 for-profit tech companies
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