BY ARCH HOERCHER
Christmas! One of the most celebrated of all the holidays in our culture. It is a time of family, the giving of gifts, and charity. There is nothing wrong with these things. I enjoy them as much as most other people. Many people will even say that it is the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus. But that is when things get a little muddled. Many people might say that it is the birth of Jesus, but they have no idea what that actually means.
I am going to try to clarify Christmas for those who do not know who Jesus is or for those who are not sure they know who Jesus is or for those who wish to be reminded of who Jesus is. The best way I can do that is to share with you what Christmas means to me. There is no other Christmas hymn that does that better than, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Let’s look at the lyrics to this hymn word by word.
“Hark! The herald angels sing – Glory to the new-born King”. “Hark!” – it means listen up, this is a very important announcement, pay attention, don’t miss out on what is about to be said. “The herald angels sing” – herald means an official messenger bringing news and that messenger is God’s angels. So, this is a very important message brought to you by God’s appointed and delegated angels to bring you this message. “Glory to the new-born King!” A King has been born, He is the King of Kings (and Lord of Lords). 1 Timothy 6:15 and Revelation 19:16. And He is to be given “Glory” – which includes man’s glory but more importantly God’s eternal glory (2 Peter 1:17 and John 1:14).
“Peace on earth and mercy mild – God and sinners reconciled.” “Peace on earth”, this is not man’s peace which is often broken and short lived. It is God’s never ending peace (John 14:27). And “mercy” without mercy we would still be at war with God and dead in our sins. But we have been given mercy and “God and sinners reconciled!” Because of Jesus and His life upon this earth we have been reconciled with God. That is one of the major Christian Doctrines, the Doctrine of Reconciliation. We, sinners, are no longer the enemies of God but now are His friends (Romans 5:10).
The lyrics go on, “Joyful, all ye nations, rise – Join the triumph of the skies with angelic host proclaim Christ is born in Bethlehem.” His birth has brought joy to the world, even though many do not know this joy. All nations should rise and pay respect to the King of all Kings (of course this will not actually happen until Christ’s return). Join the triumph of the skies – join the master of both heaven and earth who has triumphed over sin and death. “Christ is born in Bethlehem”, the one and only Christ – the prophesied savior of Israel and all humanity has been born in Bethlehem. This statement satisfies some of the prophesies pertaining to the birth of Christ. (Luke 2:11 and John 7:42).
And the hymn goes on, “Christ, by highest heaven adored – Christ, the everlasting Lord – Late in time behold Him come – Offspring of the Virgin’s womb.” “Christ, by highest heaven adored”, the highest heaven is God the Father who adores his one and only son, Jesus Christ. Christ is also THE everlasting Lord, the Lord of all things both in heaven and in the earth. And not for a period of time, but forever (everlasting). He has come in God’s appointed time and is the birthed son of a virgin. Another prophesy fulfilled by Jesus’ birth. (Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23). “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (God with us)” Matthew 1:23 NIV.
Let’s continue, “Hail the Flesh, the God Head see – Hail the incarnate Deity – Pleased as man with man to dwell – Jesus our Emmanuel!”. Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. He is part of the God Head along with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. He is God (Deity) incarnate in the flesh to dwell among men. He was “pleased” to become like man. This task was not forced upon Him, it was His choice. He became the instrument for God’s reconciliation with man. “Jesus, our Emmanuel!”, which means God with Us. The spelling is the Romanized version of Immanuel.
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, is actually a brief synopsis of the Gospel set into song. It is what Christmas means to me. Jesus Christ came to this earth as a man to become God’s sacrificial Lamb to pay the price of mankind’s sin so that the relationship between man and God could be restored. God loves me so much that if I were the only man needing saving, he would have died for me alone. Even as a child, Jesus carried with Him the burden of the cross. Christmas is a most joyous time of celebration – that God became man and came to redeem us all. But never lose site of the fact that His coming was so that He could die on a cross and shed His precious blood for you. “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!”
So, what does Christmas mean to you?