OF SUBSTANCE AND SPIRIT
By DIWA C. GUINIGUNDO
This column will come to print a day after December 25. Nonetheless, I greet all our readers Merry Christmas!
The powerful message of Christmas is God’s love and salvation. But there are secondary messages of contemporary relevance one can find in the circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus, the reason for the season.
So today’s column will not re-gift our usual Christmas take-aways.
We begin with the heart of Christmas that is Jesus, the true gift of Christmas to all mankind. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” The succeeding verse is equally important: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”
This is the essence of the New Testament.
The Old Testament given through Moses failed to restore the dominion of man over the earth and in reconciling him with God for “all have sinned and have come short of the glory of God.” No one succeeded in keeping the law. The Ten Commandments remained a Decalogue of man’s weaknesses. The list highlights, rather than erases, man’s offenses.
Jesus’ resurrection confirms both His deity and His message. Sinless and blameless, Christ’s blood in Calvary guarantees the forgiveness of sin; reconciles mankind to God; and promises eternal life to those who would accept and submit to His Lordship. This is the power of the Christmas message. It manifests full circle from Jesus’ birth through His death and resurrection.
Who had good account of the first Christmas?
Luke narrated the birth of Jesus in the second chapter of his Gospel. From this account, we draw six key basic points with contemporary resonance.
First, Joseph and Mary journeyed from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register, and to pay taxes. The Son of God could not dwell in a family of tax evaders. Jesus Himself who, when asked whether it was lawful to pay taxes,answered (Matt 22: 21): “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Paul was also politically correct when he advised in Rom 13:6-7 that we ought to pay taxes in obedience to God.
Second, Jesus was born in a manger. This was an issue for the Jews. They had a strong bias that the “true Messiah” would deliver Israel from the oppressive Roman Empire. To them, the “true Messiah” would come in glory and wealth and with an important, earthly political mission. They failed to realize that Jesus’ purpose was neither worldly nor temporal, but to die for the sins of all. God humbles the proud and exalts the humble (Matt 23:11-12, Jam 4:6). Anyone who thinks he can get away with pride or with impunity for what he does or fails to do as a public servant or as a private individual, should remember that “pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.”
Third, an angel announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds. The expectation then was that the birth of the world’s savior would be aptly announced to people such as the Roman emperor or members of the Sanhedrin. But God decided otherwise. Paul in 1 Cor 1:26-29 explained that God is magnified when He is able to use the simple and despised of this world to confound the wise.
Fourth, the shepherds followed the signs of Jesus. He was to be found wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. The shepherds correctly read and followed those humble signs that would have been easily dismissed. No grandiose signs were required by them to obey and seek Him.
Are we similarly prepared?
In Matthew 24:4-8, Jesus issued several signs and warnings that would herald the imminent coming of His heavenly Kingdom and the end of this earthly one. These signs are also simple. They include the spread of fake news and hypocrisy, greed among the rich and anxiety among the poor, unpreparedness for the coming of Jesus, family division and political and spiritual destruction.
Like the shepherds, will we recognize and follow simple signs? Or will we be like King Belshazzar who could not read the writings on the wall (Daniel 5). He ended up losing the kingdom of Babylon to Darius the Mede on the same night he honored Daniel for reading and interpreting the one single sign of his own downfall:“Tinimbang ka ngunit kulang!”
Fifth, Mary kept to herself the revelation of heaven about Jesus. The very first Christmas was a prophesy fulfilled. In like manner, there have been numerous prophetic words released about the Philippines and its glorious future as one of the biggest economies in the world. These prophecies by Bill Hamon, Cindy Jacobs, Chuck Pierce, Ed Silvoso, Morris Cerrulo, and our Malaysian friend Dexter Low were declared as early as 1992. The specifics of those prophecies are beginning to unfold. At the rate the Philippines is growing—having achieved consecutive positive economic growth for 83 quarters or 20 years and three quarters—with good policy space and appropriate implementation, it should not be surprising if these prophecies are fulfilled in our lifetime.
And sixth, Joseph and Mary dedicated Jesus following the precepts of the law.We too must dedicate our children and lift them up to the Lord so that in time, they would properly forge their own personal relationship with God, accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior to wash away their original sin and restore their broken relationship with God.
There is one big challenge to the basics of Christmas.
While Christmas centers on Jesus as an infant, the story of Christmas finds wholeness in the ministry of Christ as an adult up to His death on the cross, and in His glorious resurrection.
Regarding Him in our minds as a perpetual baby weakens the power of the Christmas message. For Isaiah (9:6-7) declares— “For unto us a child is born, unto us, a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”Let Jesus and His teachings grow in our minds, in our hearts and in our spirits so that we can become mature believersas well as strong and enlightened citizens of the Republic.
Merry Christmas, dear readers!