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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Why We Say, "Merry Christmas"

I am sure Joseph was confused. I suspect he was also angry. His beloved Mary was pregnant, and the child was not his.  But because he loved her, he would not disgrace her. Instead, he decided to send her away secretly.

Then Gabriel spoke to him: “[D]o not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” *

St. Matthew, quoting from the prophet Isaiah, then writes: "Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:  “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son and they shall call his name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”

Christmas is not at all about brightly wrapped packages under a decorative tree. Christmas is not about hot cocoa around the fireplace, and family gathered around a dinner table – although there is nothing wrong with any of these things.

The first Advent we celebrate at Christmastime is about the One who “was rich, yet for [our] sake He became poor, so that [we] through His poverty might become rich."

It’s about the One “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be [asserted], but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men."

It's about the One who though sinless, became “sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

It's about the One who “had to be made like [us] . . . so that He might . . . make [atonement] for the sins of the people.”

The first Advent had its supernatural beginning in the womb of the Virgin so her Son – fully human on His mother’s side, and fully God on His Father’s side – so that God-Made-Flesh could do what only the supernatural and sinless God could do: Pay the penalty your sins and mine deserve.

It is because of the first Advent, culminating on Golgotha’s cross and an empty tomb, that each sin-sick man, woman, and child who believes in Christ will not only receive forgiveness for their confessed sins, but also have eternal life.

Oh, think of it! Forgiveness and eternal life. THAT is why we say to one another, “Merry Christmas!”
* Texts quoted in this essay are (in order of use): Matthew 1:20-21; Matthew 1:22-23; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:6-7; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 2:17

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