“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”
There is and has never been any greater good news to humanity than the birth of Jesus Christ. A few days ago, majority of Christians celebrated the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ on Christmas day (25th December). The birth of Jesus Christ as proclaimed in John 3:16 is the expression of God’s love to humanity. John the evangelist writes; “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
In all the four Gospel accounts, the birth of Jesus has but one ultimate purpose: to “save his people [us] from their [our] sins” (Matthew 1:21). There are more than a million reasons to praise and thank God for the gift of Salvation which has come through the birth of Jesus Christ. Precisely, it is right to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ not only once in a year but we should be thankful to God all through the year and the whole of our lives.
There are a lot of misconceptions about the birth of Jesus which if not well considered might discourage many people from celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. In the week leading to Christmas, someone posted in one of the Christian-Muslim apologetic Facebook group:
“No Biblical proof or Historical evidence support the birth of Jesus Christ on 25th December. If God was born on 25th December, then who was God before 25th December and who was controlling this universe?”
This question (post) brings out two misconceptions about the birth of Christ: that Christ was born on December 25th; therefore, Christmas is the celebration of the birthdate of Jesus Christ. And, that the birth of Christ marks His beginning or his existence. First, 25th December is not the birthdate of Jesus Christ, it is the day when majority of the Church celebrate the birth of Christ.
For to think that Christ was born on December 25th is heretical, no one holds the birth certificate of Jesus Christ to ascertain his birthdate. Christmas (25th December) therefore is NOT the celebration of the birthdate of Jesus, it is rather the celebration of the good news of the birth of Jesus Christ—that to us a Saviour has been born. This was the message heralded by the angel to the shepherds that “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”
As “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told” (Luke 2:20), we too must glorify and praise God because a Savior has been born to us; he is the Messiah, the Lord. It is therefore right to set one day out of the 365 days of the year to celebrate the birth of the Messiah, but it is worth glorifying and giving thanks to God all the days of our lives. Christmas is the celebration of an event other than a day or date, the event being the birth of Christ be it on 25th December or not.
Secondly, it is wrong to think that Christ’s birth marked his beginning or existence. For Christ is not created, through him, all things have been made. John sets his theology of the person of Christ right in the first verses of his written Gospel by saying:
“In the beginning was the Word [Christ], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-3, 14).
During the 4th century heresy which taught that Christ didn’t exist in the beginning, the Church Fathers unanimously rejected the doctrine that “in the beginning Christ was not.” Of the divinity of Christ, the Church Fathers wrote:
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.
This A.D 325 Nicene Creed makes it clear that Christ is the Only Son of God who is begotten but not made, and that Christ is “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God.” The ancient Christian statement of Faith affirms what John 1:1-3, 14 and the rest of the Scripture states; that Christ has existed before ALL creation; therefore, his birth doesn’t mark his beginning. Consequently, it is heretical to think that the birth of Christ marks his existence. For “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Before Jesus Christ was born through virgin Mary, he existed. It is for this very reason that in his argument with the Pharisees, Christ blatantly said; “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58).
Jesus Christ who is the King of kings is Lord over all. In one of his Advent devotions, Billy Graham writes:
Jesus Christ was born to be King. His salvation and His Kingdom apply to present-world problems. But His kingship also has future implications. The sovereignty of Jesus Christ extends in an unbroken line throughout the ages. Hidden from view now, He will come again, according to the Scriptures, in God’s time, and He will reign in righteousness (Bill Graham).
As we rejoice and bless God for the birth of the Messiah, we should even be reminded that he will come again. As much as the celebration of his birth is important, it is even more important that we daily prepare ourselves for his second coming. It is worthless to celebrate his birth for dozens of years and yet be found wanting on the day of his return—judgment day.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New International version (NIV). Rev. Julius Izza Tabi (Master of Philosophy in Religion, Society and Global Issues) is a lecturer at Uganda Christian University Arua Campus.