December 7, 2015

Introducing the Why

Few things are more challenging than writing something original about Christmas.

Jesus was born more than 2,000 years ago, wrapped in swaddling cloths, laid in a manger (see how hard it is!). Since you’ve likely heard that chorus before, you also realize that the Jews—God’s chosen people—never accepted Jesus as their messiah during His 33 years on earth.

Have you ever wondered how these people missed the Messiah? In Jewish culture, children were taught the Torah inside and out, memorizing entire books. This same Hebrew Bible included prophecies about where the Messiah would be born (Micah 5:2), from what lineage He would descend (Gen. 49:10, Jer. 23:5), and the exact year of His anointing (Dan. 9:25).

More than that, God wasn’t trying to keep Jesus’ birth a secret. Angels appeared to shepherds; foreigners followed a singular star; and a man named Simeon—via the Holy Spirit—recognized Jesus as the Messiah on the steps of the Temple.

We talk about Christ’s sacrificial death, but Bethlehem is where the offering began.

Despite having a blueprint of the Messiah’s birth, life, and death, many Jews are still waiting. Perhaps you’ve thought about all that before. But have you related it to your life?

Out of the whole world, Jews had the most access to information about Jesus’ first coming. Which group knows the most about His second coming? It’s not a rhetorical question.

Seventh-day Adventists have amazing insights about last-day events. We might not be able to pinpoint the exact time, but we know the circumstances that will usher in Jesus’ return.

Despite our denominational understanding of this parallel truth, is it possible we could fall asleep at the wheel (or waiting for the Bridegroom)?1

While it’s important to understand the signs of the times, the best way to stay alert is to focus on Jesus. That’s why Christmas is so important. The season of our Savior’s birth prompts us to freshly comprehend the deep mysteries of His human experience. In fact, Ellen White referred to Bethlehem as an “exhaustless theme,”2 worthy of our continual contemplation and study.

It occurs to me that we often minimize how far Christ humbled Himself in becoming like us.We talk about His sacrificial death, but Bethlehem is where the offering began.

Ellen White observed: “It would have been an almost infinite humiliation for the Son of God to take man’s nature, even when Adam stood in his innocence in Eden. But Jesus accepted humanity when the race had been weakened by four thousand years of sin.”3

Ponder that statement for a moment: Adam was made in the likeness of God, without defect and unstained by sin. Yet even in perfect Eden, it would have been an unprecedented disgrace for Christ to take on humanity. Can we even begin to imagine the depth and breadth of His love for us?

When God so loved the world, He didn’t just give up His Son to die for us—He gave Him up to live for us. As His return nears, remember to stay focused on the Man whose life began two millennia ago in a little town called Bethlehem.

  1. See Matt. 25:1-13.
  2. Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898), p. 48.
  3. Ibid., p. 49.

Jimmy Phillips is executive director of marketing at San Joaquin Community Hospital.