A picture can speak a thousand words. This picture proclaims the complete meaning of Christmas. It is God’s message through the baby born in a manager. That manager was located in the city of King David, Bethlehem, Israel.
The wise men saw the star prophesied by Balaam. It was an astronomical star within a nearby constellation. This particular constellation and its brightest star represented the coming messiah, who would rule the world. As God revealed it to Balaam:
"I see him, but not now; I behold, but not near; A star shall forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel."
Those wise men followed the brilliant star that symbolized God’s new born king who would reign forever. That is why they brought him presents of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Those were gifts only given by ambassadors of other countries to honor kings and other royalty. According to one scholar, the wise men were well known ambassadors from Rome’s rival empire Parthia, which was east of Israel.
What did they do when they found the baby who had been born in the manger and wrapped in an old wick from Israel’s national menorah. That menorah was so big that when it was lite its light illuminated all of Jerusalem and beyond. Those men with their military entourage bowed down to honor the king-messiah who was the light of the world. In his light all humanity would be blessed with the knowledge of God and with eternal life.
Before this could become reality, the cute baby would have to grow up and live a sinless life. He would have to fulfill God word and will without compromise. And in the end, Jesus would have to suffer consequences of humanity’s breaking God law. Those consequences include pain, injustice, hate, mockery, betrayal, and death. The wages of sin is death. Just consider the world around us. Consider the reason for divorce, abandonment, alienation, isolation, lying, and division … anything but unity, peace and good. And, notice what was not mentioned: sickness and physical death. Death is more than a biological end. It continues beyond the grave.
Furthermore, let’s consider the kind of death new born king would suffer for humanity. Those who committed crimes against the Roman Empire ruled by Caesar were severely punished. Individuals, groups, even village and cities who rebelled against the Roman rule were either killed or enslaved. Leaders of insurrections were usually crucified. Because Jesus was accused of insurrection by Jewish officials and because they demanded the death penalty, Pilate had him crucified. What was his crime according to Rome’s local overlord, Pilate: He was king of the Jews.
God brought Jesus into the world to be sacrificed for the sins of all people. He suffered every form of punishment for every human being. All have sinned, and deserve punishment. Whether for a little lie or a habit of lying, for stealing a toy or robbing a bank, for immorality of every kind, for lying in wait to seduce someone or lying in wait harm, for killing an animal for fun or murdering a fellow human, Jesus suffered the slow death by execution on a cross for all crimes of all people for all time.
The good news is Jesus conquered death in all of its forms. God raised him from the dead. Just as those who saw the empty tomb, ate with him and received his instructions after rising from the dead, and who saw him ascend into heaven, we can know the son of God who lives forever more. Because he lives, we too can know God, experience His love, His forgiveness, and His life. To have a relationship with God is eternal life. That life begins now.
by Daniel Downs