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"For we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not of ourselves."

A Christmas Blessing

Hugo van der Goes Nativity Scene painting

by Timothy Cross

Christmas Eve 2011 saw my family and I attending a ‘Service of Nine Lessons and Carols’ in Bath Abbey. I am impelled to say that the carefully chosen readings from the Bible tracing the grand saga of redemption, along with the traditional Christmas carols which paraphrased the readings, proved to a great joy and blessing. The service concluded with a prayer which has lodged in my mind. For this Christmas message I would like to share this prayer with you. It goes like this:-

May the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the perseverance of the wise men, the obedience of Joseph and Mary and the peace of the Christ-child be yours this Christmas; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

Unpacking this prayer, we note that it refers first of all to:-

            The joy of the angels. It was some angels from heaven who announced the Saviour’s birth on the first Christmas. They described this as ‘good news of a great joy which will come to all people.’ What exactly constitutes this good and joyful news though? The next verse tells us specifically: ‘For to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, Who is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:11). The joy then is that there is a Saviour. Our greatest need is for a Saviour, as we are sinners, under the judgement of God. In the Christ Who was born at Bethlehem we find the Saviour for our greatest need. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). For God sent the Son into the world not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him (John 3:17).

True Christmas joy therefore, and true Christian joy, is knowing Jesus as our own, personal Saviour – being a beneficiary of His saving work, and receiving through Him the forgiveness of our sins and the consequent peace with God and sure hope of eternal life.

Secondly, the prayer refers to the eagerness of the shepherds. As soon as the shepherds in the fields surrounding Bethlehem heard the good news of the Saviour’s birth, they moved. They said ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’ They did not dawdle, but went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger (Luke 2:15,16). And of course, there is an urgency about the message of salvation, for salvation is the most crucial matter of all. Our attitude towards Jesus actually determines where we will spend eternity. If God has truly called us to Christ in the gospel, we will eagerly embrace the grace He offers us there without delay. Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Thirdly, the prayer refers to the perseverance of the wise men. This takes us to Matthew 2. There we read of some Magi from the East – ancient Babylon – who made a long, arduous journey to Bethlehem to see the infant Christ. Before the days of modern transport, their journey was no doubt difficult and uncomfortable, but their motivation enabled them to persevere. Their faith, hope and love were abundantly rewarded, for on their journey’s end, their eyes eventually beheld the longed for Messiah. Going into the house they saw the child with Mary His mother and they fell down and worshipped Him. Then opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2:11). God still rewards earnest, persevering seekers after Jesus – those who are truly are ‘in the business’ with Him. Those whose faith is merely nominal however are strangers to true Christian blessing. God states in His Word You will seek Me and find Me; when you seek Me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).

Fourthly, the prayer mentions the obedience of Joseph and Mary. Joseph and Mary, of course, figure prominently in the Christmas story – although even they take second place to Christ. Little is said about Joseph in the Bible. After angelic assurance that Mary’s conception of Christ was by the Holy Spirit, he provided background support for his wife to be. Mary herself gives us an example to emulate in that she submitted meekly to the will of God. When the angel Gabriel explained to her that, of all the women in the world, she alone was to be the one who would give birth to the longed for Messiah, after an initial fear and puzzlement she said ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word’ (Luke 1:38). God’s will is always best. Knowing, obeying and submitting to the will of God is surely the secret of true happiness.

Lastly, the prayer mentions the peace of the Christ-child. The best has been saved to last. Isaiah’s ancient prophecy describes Jesus as the Prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6). Colossians 1:20 explains His making peace by the blood of His cross.

The Christ of Bethlehem alone can give sinners peace with God. Our sin alienates us from Him and puts us under His wrath. But the Christ of Bethlehem grew up to become the Christ of Calvary. He lived a sinless life and at Calvary died an atoning death. He reconciles to God every sinner who believes in Him – who avails themselves of His atoning work. So Wesley was spot on when he wrote ‘Hail Thou heaven-born Prince of peace’ and ‘Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.’ Christ’s cradle was with a view to His cross. He was born to die. He was born to reconcile sinners to God. When our faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ, the peace of God becomes ours – eternally. Romans 5:1 declares Therefore since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

So my prayer for you is the prayer we have just considered. If this prayer is answered in you , you will have a truly happy Christmas, for the blessing of the Christ of Christmas will by yours now, and will remain yours for ever. So let us have the prayer again now as we close:-

May the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the perseverance of the wise men, the obedience of Joseph and Mary and the peace of the Christ-child by yours this Christmas; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

Timothy Cross

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Last Update: 2013-08-12 16:41