The Sonshine, December 2021 by Walter Olsen
Who doesn’t enjoy Christmas, especially as we think back to the days of our childhood. We anticipated it for many days, even months maybe. Of course, in many ways, we did not very well understand the real meaning of Christmas. We thought more about family, food, and presents! Certainly these things create many memorable memories. We can be thankful for them.
As we get older, however, we think more of the special meaning of Christmas. This is especially true if one has grown up in a Bible believing church where the truth of the Bible is taught. This article is a reminder of some of the very important things we should remember about Christmas, the birth of our Savior.
The birth of Jesus is a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. What God says about the future is sure to come to pass. There is never any deviation from what God has decreed to be. God’s Word, the Bible, is an expression of truth that can be counted on for total accuracy and fulfillment. That’s why His Word is a great comfort regarding our future.
There are many verses in the Bible that refer to His birth. The first one is found way back in Genesis where God said to the serpent, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). Man’s temptation and sin did not cancel God’s program for His people. God would provide a way for sinful man to repent of his sin and come into fellowship with Himself.
In Isaiah we read, “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14). Only God Himself could make such a prediction and bring it to pass. God gives many promises to believers today and He will surely bring them to pass. Think of His promises to be with us in times of stress and difficulty and to see us through to peace and safety. This world and the wicked men in it do not thwart the will and plan of God for His own! While the world gets darker and darker, the promises of God get brighter and brighter!
Perhaps we should check our own mind and heart regarding the promises of God concerning the future. Do we unserstand what God has said in His Word about the future so that we can rest in His promises and so we can be creditable witness to His promises? Remember King Nebuchadnezzar who had to learn the hard ward way that God is who He said He is? After seven years of hardship, He came to acknowledge, “And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honored Him that liveth forever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation” (Dan. 4:34). Indeed, God honors all of His Word!
The birth of Jesus is an expression of the love of God. Most of us are familiar with the following verse, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). There is no greater promise in the world than this! Many promises that men make in this life fail, but never this one from God Himself! It is this promise of the love of God that the world needs so desperately to hear. To fail to hear and respond to this message is to fail eternally.
It is amazing that God shed His love upon us while we were yet sinners. As John further says, “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I Jn. 4:9-10). It is important to note that we live spiritually because we have life in Him. No one has spiritual life in himself or herself. If we have spiritual life, it is because we have come to the lord Jesus in faith and sought His forgiveness. As the songwriter noted, “We live because He lives.”
The greatness of God’s love is noted further in that He loved us when we were deep in our sins and had no desire for Him! That is love beyond our ability to comprehend.
Should not this love of God characterize our love for those who may have offended us? Sometimes friends and family members can bring great sorrow and grief into our lives because of their sin and rebellion. Yet, if we know something of the love of God in our own lives, we can more readily forgive those who may have offended us. This is the kind of love family members need today. The offended need to know that they can be forgiven if they will come to a place of acknowledging their sins. Also, our churches need this kind of love. Often there is division even in Bible believing churches because the offended are unwilling to forgive those who have wronged them.
Perhaps we should examine our own lives and see if there is someone we need to extend our love to. We need to let them know that we stand ready to forgive them. We need to let them know that, in spite of their offending us, in our hearts we forgive them. Maybe we are the offending party. Are we ready to acknowledge our offences and seek the forgiveness of those we have offended? In seeking forgiveness, there is a restoration of fellowship and a peace of heart that we can know in no other way.
The birth of Jesus is an expression of God’s hatred for sin. Sin is a human condition unrelated to anything that is an expression of God. Referring to the Lord Jesus we read, “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth” (I Pet. 2:22). That which pleases God in our lives is that which is a reflection of His character. Sin is disobedience to God as evidenced first in the Garden of Eden. Adam’s disobedience in the Garden has been passed unto all men so that every person born after Adam has been born a sinner. Adam’s sin has been passed unto all men without exception. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12).
Because God is perfectly holy, He cannot endure any sin in His presence. The prophet prayed, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look upon evil...” (Hab. 1:13). Because of God’s hatred for sin, He must separate from Himself all who indeed are sinners, which includes all of us. Because of the sin of Adam and Eve, God drove them out of the perfect environment He had created for them. Still, God did not leave them with the consequences of their sin! He provided a way for them to be rescued from their plight, but it was by the shedding of the blood of a given sacrifice.
So today God hates sin, but He does not leave us in our plight. He provided a way for us to be forgiven and to be fully accepted by God, but it was by a way of untold grief and suffering. Indeed, He gave his only Son to die on the cross to be the propitiation, [satisfaction] for sin.
Because of God’s hatred for sin, He must provide a place of suffering for those who reject the offering of His beloved Son who died in their place that they might be forgiven and spend eternity with Him in heaven. This is hard truth to receive, but we have to let God be God. “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14-15).
We must remember that, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God... (II Tim. 3:16). To accept only the parts of Scripture that seem good to us is, in reality, to disbelieve God.
The birth of Jesus is a demonstration of God’s miracle working power. Without God’s working of miracles, there would be no Christmas! While the miracles are many, consider first the miracle of His birth. The Bible tells us clearly about this miraculous birth. “Now the birth of Jesus was on this wise: when as His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found of child of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 1:18). Nothing like this had ever happened before. It was totally and genuinely a unique birth. It was unique in that it was from God who alone could perform such a miracle. It was unique in that it fulfilled the perfect will of God.
The narrative of the passage continues, “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.” Joseph did the only thing he knew to do. It was natural for Joseph to avoid a public scandal if at all possible. However, his decision was not necessary, but he didn’t know any other thing to do. He had to be informed by God Himself. It seems he didn’t have to wait long, “But while he thought on these things, behold the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 1:20). This conception cannot be explained any other way than that is was an exceedingly great miracle! God did what only God could do. The world benefitted greatly and continues to benefit from this miraculous act of God.
To believe in God is to believe in miracles. God accomplished His will in the world by many miraculous means such as the dividing of the Red Sea for Israel to cross over safely, the feeding of thousands of people without any material neans to do so, or the raising of the dead to life again. Indeed, if one believes in God he will likewise believe in God’s working of miracles. To not believe in miracles is to not believe in God!
The birth of Jesus Christ is God’s provision for any hope for the future. A future without God is a hopeless future, whether for individuals or for the world. Individuals without God and who continue to reject His offer of salvation face the most horrific of futures. When Jesus died on the cross, he endured the most horrific of deaths. He took on Himself the sins of the entire world. His sufferings were beyond any human to comprehend. When He died, He died for the sins of all the world, for every individual. He died as a Substitute in the sinner’s place. “ For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21).
The sinners’ only hope for a glorious future is Jesus Christ Himself. No church, rite, good work, or religious person can secure a place in heaven for another. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me” (Jn. 14:6). Further, Jesus said, “...I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (Jn. 11:25).
In today’s world, there is much concern for the future of our nation and our families. The Bible promises times of extreme hardship and suffering. We see this even today as the conditions of the world deteriorate. Of course, the Bible speaks of the time of the great tribulation. The purpose of this time is to turn the hearts of Israel from sin to salvation, from certain ruin to rest in Jesus. The wonderful promise is that the real church, believers, will not be on earth during that time, but will be in heaven with the Lord Himself. Matthew 24 speaks to this issue. In spite of the hard times we may go through because of world conditions, believers will be brought home to heaven.
Believers may also suffer personal pain, loss, and hardship unrelated to the conditions of the world about them. Some suffer from cancer and other diseases, various accidents, loneliness, the loss of loved ones and the list could go on endlessly. Is there any hope for such persons? Yes!! The fact is, this world is not the believer’s home! His citizenship is already in heaven from whence he looks for the Savior. Pain may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning!!
Then too, as believers walk with God, they have the wonderful presence of the Holy Spirit to comfort and encourage them. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith” (Gal. 5:22). This fruit of the Spirit is not only for the good times, but for the very difficult times. It is for the times when we cannot see any good way out of the circumstances we are facing. God knows the way out and He will guide, direct, and provide according to His perfect will. “In all thine ways, acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths” (Prov. 3:6).
The birth of Jesus is man’s only hope for a fulfilling life on earth. Yes, as believers, we look forward our eternal life in heaven. However, we also have a life to live on earth. This life can be one of great joy and blessing or it can be one of unfulfillment and drudgery. When we are young, we often have great hopes and dreams. Such hopes and dreams, though, are often based on our own understanding of what is good and satisfying. Many times they are very fulfilling and satisfying, but there is usually a time limit to them. When they have run their course, nothing much remains. Sometimes we may wonder, was it all worthwhile? The point is, a life lived without the leading and provision of God leaves much to be desired.
On the other hand, when God is sought in truth from a cleansed heart, there is so much to rejoice in. We can rejoice that God has led us in the way He would have us to go. We can rejoice in His provision all along the way. We agree with the admonition from Paul, “Study [be diligent] to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15). Further, believers can be encouraged by Paul’s own testimony as he was about to depart from his life on earth, “For I am ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4:6-7).
Maybe it would be a good idea for all of us to stop some of our busyness and consider if we are really about the business God would have us to be.
As with most articles, we barely get started and it is time to bring this to a conclusion. If we can stop and consider what Christmas really is, maybe that will help us to rearrange some of our priorities. Then, too, in this unusual year, maybe we should consider what Christmas is really about! Presents are nice, but Christmas is not really about getting presents except the present of the Lord Jesus Himself. The greatest gift ever given is the gift of the Son of God to come to earth to die for our sins!
BJ and I want to wish all of our many readers a very Merry Christmas, a Christmas filled with the real meaning of the birth of Jesus, including the life of Jesus Himself that we confidently claim as our own when we know Him as our Savior. His life is a life filled with His love, joy, and peace!
We were very saddened to hear of the passing of a very dear friend of ours from our days in New Glarus. Don Gilbertson passed away on October 30th. Don was very instrumental in the work of the church. He was faithful to the ministry and mission of the church. He served in many different capacities, including AWANA, cooking breakfasts for various activities, and just being a help in any way he could. Our lives were certainly enriched by his friendship and ministry. He will be greatly missed by his family and his many friends. We extend our sympathy to his wife, Sonja, and all the family.
Also, we have learned of the passing of Romelle Cable. She passed away about two weeks after her husband, George. Pastor and Mrs. Cable were very active in local church ministry in both Wisconsin and Minnesota.
We were fortunate to spend Thanksgiving Day with my sister Dorothy and her husband, Harley and family, near Barron. We enjoyed the fellowship of several other family members as well.
My sisters, Dorothy and Sharon, have been very faithful to help us with some special needs from time to time. We are so thankful!
“Be careful [anxious] for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).
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