Monday, 16 December 2013

A Happy Christmas Possible Only In Christ

May I be permitted to share a brief word or two at this time of year when traditionally we remember the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who came into the world to be its Saviour? I want you to hear the words of a man who was filled with the Holy Spirit and who rejoiced in the birth of the Saviour. His name is Zacharias (Lk.1:67), the father of John the Baptist and whose wife, Elizabeth, was the cousin of Jesus' mother, Mary. Zacharias was struck dumb because of his refusal to believe the words that Gabriel had spoken (vvs.19, 20). His mouth was opened and he began to praise God; and in his worship of the living God, he prophesied and said, "Blessed is the Lord God of Israel; for He has visited and redeemed His people..." (Lk.1:68).

Allowing for the fact that Zacharias was a Jew, a Hebrew, his prayer related to the Lord's chosen and ancient people, Israel, (v.68). He thanks God that He has visited and redeemed His people - the Jews. Whilst he ought to have known that God demanded that Israel show mercy to the outsider, the Gentiles or non-Jews, quite clearly he had forgotten this fact. Yet God accepted his worship and had it recorded for posterity in the pages of Scripture.
But did God visit and redeem His people Israel only? Clearly that is not the case. Yes, He visited them in the Person of His Son at that time, and through His death on Calvary He purchased their redemption. But He has also visited and redeemed us. How? Well, in addition to what happened in Bethlehem some two thousand years ago, when the Gospel is preached in our hearing, God is visiting us. Oh, how careful we ought to be when we hear the Gospel? This is God visiting us with a personal message of salvation. You have heard Him and so have I. But what have you done about it? Have you opened your heart and received it? Or, have you gone on rejecting it?
God has visited His people. But He has also redeemed the world through the death of Christ. Redemption for all has been purchased by the blood of Christ. God has shown His marvellous grace to a guilty human race in providing redemption for it. Does the world deserve redemption? Not at all. It deserves the very opposite. Does the God Who purchased that redemption at such colossal cost want all men everywhere to receive the benefits of that redemption? Yes, and a million times yes. He now reaches out His hand of grace to draw into His family and fold all who receive His Son, Jesus Christ. Have you? There is no need for you to perish forever for God has provided the only way of escape - and it becomes yours through trusting in the blood of God's only Son, "Jesus of Nazareth, the Saviour of mankind," to quote Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones as he finished a sermon I heard him preach in Leeds in 1973.
Is Christmas about cards and gifts and trees and turkey and trifle and tinsel? Not a bit. It is what was necessary for the Saviour of the lost to die on Calvary. When you commemorate the Saviour's birth this year, remember why it was that He came all those years ago. He came so that He could visit and redeem you for Himself. He has visited you in the Gospel and through those godly lives that have come into contact with you and through that Gospel tract that you've received - and you know it! On Calvary He has redeemed you, but do you know that? Have you bowed the knee and received this glorious salvation, this redemption, that cost God His Son and the Son His life? And if you are to receive its benefits, it is going to cost you as well - it will cost you your sin. Are you prepared to give up what you cannot keep in order to have what you cannot lose? Think on these things.