Few days from now we will be Celebrating the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Invariably, Christmas is the most celebrated day in the world today. In fact, some people begin to plan for it as soon as they go into a new year. In some Countries, like in the USA, billions of dollars are spent annually just on Christmas gifts. Back here, people also spend. A lot of preparations go into this most important annual event. And the pressure is always felt in the society. There is always the expectation of high income, execution of new projects, numerous social events and the reunion of relations and friends. On the negative side, there is always increase in crime and social disorder, ie, robbery, kidnapping, accidents and other social vices. But in all these, one is tempted to ask, how many of us actually know what Christmas is all about? How many understand the significance, timing and the plan of God for this glorious divine event?
First of all, let's look at the connection of the event with December 25th. Was Jesus really born on December 25th? Virtually, biblical scholars have proposed every month on the Calendar. So why do we celebrate His birth in December?
The tradition for December 25th is actually quite ancient. Hippolytus, in the second century A.D. argued that this was Christ's birthday. Meanwhile, in the Eastern Church, January 6th was the date followed. But in the fourth Century, John Chrysostom argued that December 25th was the correct date and from that day till now, the Church in the East, as well as the west has observed the 25th of December as the official date of Christ's birth.
In modern times, the traditional date has been challenged. Modern Scholars point out that when Jesus was born, shepherds were watching their sheep in the hills around Bethlehem. Luke tells us that an angel appeared to "Some Shepherds staying out in the fields keeping watch over their flock by night" (Luke 2:8).
Some scholars feel that the sheep were usually brought under cover from November to March; as well, they were not normally in the field at night. But there is no hard evidence for this. In fact, early Jewish sources suggest that the sheep around Bethlehem were outside year-round. So you can see, December 25th fits both tradition and the biblical narrative well. There is no sound objection to it.
Admittedly, the sheep around Bethlehem were the exception, not the rule. But these were no ordinary sheep. They were sacrificial lambs. In the early spring they would be slaughtered at the Passover. And God first revealed the Messiah's birth to these shepherds - shepherds who protected harmless lambs, which would soon die on behalf of sinful men. When they saw the baby, could they have known? Might they have whispered in their hearts what John the Baptist later thundered, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!"
Of course, we can't be absolutely certain of the day of Christ's birth. But an early winter date seems reasonable. And December 25th has been the frontrunner for eighteen centuries. We can blame the ancient Church for a large part of our uncertainty. You see, they did not Celebrate Christ's birth at all. To them it was insignificant. They were far more concerned with His death and resurrection. And some still hold the same view today. But I believe both are important, for without the birth, there wouldn't have been the death. Or what do you think? Enough of this history Please, let's move forward.
Now, since creation, God was orchestrating world affairs to set the stage for the arrival of His Son. In the meantime, He used prophecy to keep alive people's hope for a fresh beginning and a new relationship with Him. So, many Messianic predictions are recorded in the old Testament that the likelihood of one man fulfilling them all was slim. However, Jesus Christ's birth, life, and death happened exactly as the prophets foretold. Isaiah proclaimed, "Behold, a virgin will be with Child and bear a Son, and she will call His name - God with us" (Isaiah 7:14).
Micah told the Jewish people that their leader would come from the tiny town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). The timing of Messiah's arrival was revealed to Daniel, who recorded the timeline in his writings. (The word 'week' in Daniel 9:25-26 actually has the meaning of 'Seven years' just as in Genesis 29:27).
God Himself gave a direct prophecy in Genesis 3:15, when He told Satan "from now on, you and the woman will be enemies, and your offspring and her offspring will be enemies. He will crush your head." It was an indication that Christ would defeat him. A careful comparison of Jesus' life with the prophecies of scripture leads to only on conclusion: Jesus is the promised Messiah, who brings every willing person into a new covenant relationship with the father.
The hope of a coming Messiah sustained the Israelites through Centuries of chaos and Captivity. That Messianic hope is still available in our day through the one who came, died, and rose again to save us. Those of us who have received Jesus Christ as Saviour have an unbreakable covenant relationship with God and the promise of eternity with Him. Have you received Him as your Lord and Saviour??? God bless you! We commiserate with the families of Sir Patrick Yakowa, General Andrew Azazi and others who died at that chopper crash in Bayelsa. We have indeed lost great patriots. Men of truth and Peace. May God give you all the fortitude to bear this great loss. Nigerians will always remember their noble contributions to better our country. Take heart! We will continue next week. Compliments of the season!
Rev. Agbo is the author of the book Power of Midnight Prayer and a minister with the Assemblies of God Nigeria. Tel: 08037113283, E-mail: [email protected]