Take a moment to become still, aware of God’s presence, and then pray:
Loving Father, we thank you for the profound meaning and beauty of these days of Advent. In the midst of what can be a busy and hurried season we ask that you would calm our hearts and minds to be ready to receive. Reveal the glory of your beloved Son who dwelt among us to make us more like Him. Amen
Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.
What is there about Christmas that gets us singing? People enjoy Christmas music from Handel’s “Messiah” to “Alvin and the Chipmunks.” Some radio stations start playing Christmas music 24/7 from the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas Day. More than any other time of the year, Christmas makes us want to sing.
Less than a year after Charles Wesley’s conversion, he wanted to sing for Christmas. So Wesley composed a song titled, “Hymn for Christmas”. We know it as “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Like most of his 6,500 hymns, a transformed Wesley wrote, this carol dives deep into the meaning of the Gospel. Lines from this Christmas hymn capture the heart of today’s scripture:
“Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.”
“Born that man no more may die!” What joyous news! Today’s scripture reveals Jesus taking on “flesh and blood” so He might save us from eternal death. Because Jesus could not die in His divine nature He had to take on our human nature, so that by death He might defeat death. So ancient Christians sang: “trampling down death by death.” (Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, 5th century) Jesus came as a baby “so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death.”
Hollywood celebrity, Woody Allen, quipped: “I’m not afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Death hovers over 100% of the population, and the fear of death tyrannizes people consciously and unconsciously. That makes us a driven culture, obsessed with keeping death at bay. But today’s text tells the deep meaning of Christmas: “to free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.” God so loved the world that He sent His Son to take our flesh, so that by death He might defeat death and the devil.
It is significant that the angel told the shepherds to look for this identifying sign of the Savior’s birth: “you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12). Biblical scholar J. Dwight Pentecost unwraps the meaning of this sign: “No royal garments clothed His body, rather, He was wrapped in strips of cloth. This baby had the appearance of being prepared for burial. How fitting that He should be so seen from the time of His birth, since he truly was appointed to death!” (J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ)
At Jesus’ birth He was wrapped in the same kinds of cloth that would wrap Him at His death (John 19:40). He was “Born that man no more may die.” Is it any wonder that the angels’ song filled the sky that night! Is it any wonder we want to sing this Christmas!
Think back over the past 24 hours and note when you experienced a “high” and a “low”. Share with God how the humanity of Jesus might speak to you in what you experienced.
At last in the midst of our fallen
humanity, within and in spite of our
estrangement from him,
God comes in his love and
binds us to himself forever.
God and man meet in Jesus Christ.Thomas Torrance