CELEBRATING CHRIST AT CHRISTMAS

BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger’” (Luke 2:10-12 NIV).

The name Jesus is derived from the Hebrew name Joshua, which was originally Hoshea (Numbers 13:8). Moses changed Hoshea’s name to Joshua or Jehoshua (Number 13:16), which means “Jehovah is his help” or “Jehovah the Savior.” This name appears variously, in different Bible translations, as Hoshea, Osea, Jehoshua (Yehoshua),  Jehoshuah, Jeshua (Yeshua), and Jesus. Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Hoshea and its variants. Jesus means “Saviour” or “Jehovah is salvation.” Therefore, Joshua and Jesus mean the same thing.

Christ is not the surname of Jesus! “Christ” (derived from the Greek word Christos) means “anointed” or “the anointed one.” So “Jesus Christ” means “the anointed Saviour.” Christos is the equivalence of the Hebrew word Mashiach (from which the English word Messiah is derived), which also means “anointed one.”  The original meaning of Mashiach applied to the priests, kings, and prophets of Israel, who were anointed with oil and consecrated to their offices but in Isaiah 45:1, Cyrus king of Persia, an earthen king, was also referred to as “His anointed” – the LORD’s anointed (Mashiach).

Jesus was anointed for His ministry on earth as Prophet, Priest, and King. He fulfilled the prophecy of the coming Messiah (Daniel 9:25-26). God anointed Him with the oil of gladness more than His companions (Psalm 45:7; Hebrews 1:9).

So Jesus Christ also means Jesus the Messiah. During His earthly ministry, Jesus avoided referring to Himself as the Messiah but only privately to His disciples, until His arrest (Matthew 26:63-64; Mark 14:61-62; Luke 22:66-70). But He is the Messiah (Matthew 16:16-17; Mark 8:29-30). 1 John 2:22 says, “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son” (NKJV). Jesus didn’t publicly refer to Himself as the Messiah because He was not the political Messiah the Jews were expecting. Jesus was a spiritual Messiah. As He told Pilate at His trial, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36 NKJV).

Central to the Christmas celebration is Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, over the years, other things have taken the centre stage at Christmas. Christmas is often abused. Christmas is not for getting drunk or engaging in other sinful things. Given this, it is necessary to redirect people’s focus to Jesus Christ who is the essence of Christmas.

Your Christmas celebration this year shouldn’t be without Christ in your life. You need to come into a personal relationship with Jesus and not just concentrate on the social aspect of the season. Jesus, born over 2000 years ago, must now be born in your heart. This is possible right now if you’re ready to experience this new birth.

If you’re already born again, you need to commit your life to Him afresh and to sharing God’s love with others, especially those who’re yet to give their lives to Jesus.

The birth of Jesus foretold

God, foretelling the birth of Jesus, said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15 NKJV). The offspring of the woman in this verse refers to Jesus Christ.

Balaam the son of Beor predicted the birth of Jesus in Numbers 24:17a, saying, “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel” (New King James Version). When Christ was born, the wise men saw His star in the East and went to look for Him. When they saw Him, they worshipped Him and gave Him gifts:­ gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:2, 9-11)

His birth was also foretold by the prophets, several years before He was born. Jeremiah prophesied the coming of a righteous descendant of David to rule. “Behold, the days are coming,’ says the LORD, ‘That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Jeremiah 23:5-6 NKJV).

The Prophet Isaiah also prophesied the birth of Jesus long before He was born: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14 NKJV). Matthew 1:22-23 refers to this prophecy after an angel had appeared to Joseph in his dream to tell him that the pregnancy of his wife, Mary, was of the Holy Spirit. Mary was a virgin at the time she was visited by the angel and became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:26-27).

Isaiah again prophesied the birth of Jesus thus: For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6-7 NKJV).

Also in Isaiah 11:1, Isaiah prophesied, “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (NKJV). This was a reference to Jesus. Jesse was the father of David. Jesus is referred to in different places in the New Testament, mostly in Matthew, as the Son of David (Matthew 1:1, 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30, 31; 21:9, 15; 22:42; Mark 10:47, 48; 12:35; Luke 18:38, 39; 20:41).

The Prophet Micah prophesied the birthplace of Jesus. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2 NKJV). Jesus is the ruler this scripture refers to. He was born in Bethlehem. The chief priests and scribes of the people quoted this scripture to confirm to King Herod that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:4-6). He was born in Bethlehem as it had been prophesied (Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4-7).

When Jesus was born, King Herod ordered the killing of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under in an attempt to kill Jesus, having been outwitted by the wise men. The killing of the children was prophesied by Jeremiah. “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Jeremiah 31:15 NKJV). Matthew 2:17-18 refers to the fulfilment of this prophecy.

Indeed, the birth of Jesus as well as Joseph’s escape to Egypt with Jesus and Mary until Herod was dead was a fulfilment of prophecies. Hosea 11:1 prophesied the Egypt connection thus: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son” (NKJV). Matthew 2:15 refers to the taking of Jesus to Egypt as a fulfilment of prophecy.

The virgin conceived a child

God chose Mary, a virgin from the lineage of David, to conceive Jesus without the involvement of any man. “And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God’” (Luke 1:35 NKJV).

What good news that the Angel Gabriel brought to Mary!  After Jesus had been born and laid in a manger, the angel of the Lord brought this good news to the shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. The angel said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10-12 NIV).

Why Jesus was born   

Why was Jesus born? In Matthew 1:21, the angel told Joseph in a dream the reason for the birth of Jesus: “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins” (NKJV). This is the real reason for the birth of Jesus and should be the basis for the celebration of Christmas.

Christmas should be a time for sinners to be reconciled with their Maker through Jesus Christ. It should be a time for them to be saved from their sins for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). No religion can save anyone from the power of sin. As you have seen, Matthew 1:21 clearly states that Jesus shall save His people from their sins. This includes everyone that is reading this piece. Christmas is also a period for those already saved to tell non-believers about the love of God for man through Christ Jesus so that they may give their lives to Jesus.

Celebrating Christmas the right way

Christmas is more than a holiday or Santa Claus. It’s more than all the parties that take place during the season or the feasting and commercialization of the season. You may have invited your loved ones for a celebration, but have you invited Jesus into your heart or surrendered your life to Him?

Jesus is God’s most precious gift to humanity. No matter the religion you profess, you cannot bypass Jesus and hope to enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus is the solution to man’s sins. He is the only one who can save you from your sins. Without accepting Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, celebrating Christmas is actually a dangerous journey to hellfire. As the Apostle Peter said, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 NIV). No religion can save anyone; only Jesus saves. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17 NKJV). You need to respond correctly to the love of God for you this Christmas season.

The wise men were wise to seek Jesus. They took the trouble to come from the East to worship and honour Him with gifts (Matthew 2:10-11). They travelled a long distance to see Jesus but He is so close to people now that they don’t need to travel to see Him and surrender their lives to Him. Unfortunately, many people who are celebrating Christmas are yet to accept Him as their Lord and Saviour. Such people must come to Him today and invite Him into their hearts. He was born to deliver them from their sins.

Everyone celebrating Christmas must do so based on the knowledge of Christ and obedience to His Word. They must do so with the full assurance that they have received forgiveness of their sins from the Father through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. They must know that they are born again. Jesus, who is the essence of Christmas, also said He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one can come to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). Peter and the other apostles said in Acts 5:31 that God exalted Jesus to His right hand as Prince and Saviour that He might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. But repentance and forgiveness of sins were not given to only Israel but to the whole world. Jesus is the Saviour of the world (John 4:42; 1 John 4:14). Through the man Jesus, there is forgiveness for your sins (Acts 13:38).

It is because no sinner can come to the Father by himself that the angel told Joseph that Jesus would save His people from our sins. This includes you and me. It is meaningless for someone to be celebrating Christmas without giving his life to Jesus. The sinner must first be born again. Are you born again? If you’re not born again, come to Jesus today. If you are born again, use this special season of Christmas to share the love of God with people, especially those yet to accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Jesus Christ is the central figure of Christianity and must remain the focus of your celebration this Christmas season.

TAKE ACTION!

If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit that you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.

Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto You today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and God raised Him on the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.

I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like a palm tree and grow like a cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.

T. O. Banso is the President of Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
Phone No: +2348155744752, +2348033113523
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