We like to dwell on the sweet holiness of the birth of Christ. We like to keep our nice, quiet story of a little family with a new baby, sequestered in a stable in the tiny town of Bethlehem. And as we observe with silent wonder and tender thoughts of newborns, I think we sometimes forget the power and the passion, the purpose that accompanied this night. We forget the questions and the awe that must have accompanied these events for the people involved. As much as I enjoy classic renditions of “Silent Night,” the song doesn’t provide a full picture of God’s intentions through the birth of Christ our Savior.
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit and give birth to the Son of God, it marked the first recorded words directly from God in about four hundred years. (This also renders the song “Mary, Did You Know?” obsolete, but I digress.) These four hundred years are the intertestamental period – the years between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament – and they are often known as the Silent Years. Can you imagine? Four hundred years of silence. Four hundred years of closely-held hope, of quiet longing for the promised Savior-King. One of the most beautiful Biblical passages prophesying about the Christ-child is Isaiah 9:1-7. These verses speak of the coming Light, the Savior of Israel, who releases the people from oppression – a victorious Warrior who frees the nation. Immediately following this proclamation is something that seems, at first glance, almost disjointed:
“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 and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward and forever….” – Isaiah 9:6-7
But the Child lying in a manager that night in Bethlehem was in no way separated from the image of the Savior-King. The night Jesus Christ was born, the silence was well and truly broken. The “Silent Night” was actually the freedom-cry that heralded the reign of the Prince of Peace, as angels shouted aloud the glory of God Most High. It was the shattering of death by the Giver of Life:
“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, [Jesus] Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” – Hebrews 2:14-15
What may have seemed, on the surface, to be a quiet night in a stable, was actually quite the opposite. God spoke to us through His Son Jesus, who is the very Word, the express image – the exact representation of the Father (Heb. 1:1-4; Jn. 1:1-3; Col. 1:15-17). Though God continues to speak, Jesus is the Perfect Revelation of the Father. (Check out Pastor Kevan’s message for more about who Jesus is — He is perfect theology!) At the birth of Jesus, the Father’s intention was manifest in flesh and blood. This salvation-cry of peace for the nations was declared loud and clear, the inauguration of a new Covenant and a new Kingdom.
And so, my dear friends, as we celebrate the birth of Christ, let it be with holy awe and full knowledge of the impact of that night upon our lives. The gift of Emmanuel, God-with-us, was given without reservation. May we rejoice as ones who live under the everlasting Government of the Prince of Peace, now free from fear of death by power of Christ Jesus, the silence-shattering Declaration of heaven.
My favorite Christmas song, in case any of you are wondering, is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” – the full power of the Savior-King, born to us for our salvation. Amen!
Listen here: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” by Kim Walker-Smith