Terror Turned to Joy
“She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
~ Matthew 1:21
I’m guilty of watering down Christmas. Getting caught up in the spectacle of sparkling lights, piled presents and time off. These aren’t bad things. They actually can be a kindness. More gifts that we don’t deserve. But on their own, they're hollow. After all the chaos of the holiday season wears off, if it continues to only be about superficial things, God is not honored and I’m left empty.
I want to earnestly contemplate the splendor of Christ’s birth. The Savior, born fully the Son of God and yet appearing to Joseph and Mary as a typical, helpless baby. A baby that would grow up knowing that He was born to save His people from their sins. Living His life in anticipation of violent torture at the hands of created men and unimaginable suffering at the hands of His Holy Father. Voluntarily. Willingly. Joyfully. This is the task He came for - God’s glory and the restoration of His people. (John 12:27). Incomprehensible love.
This is the task He came for - God’s glory and the restoration of His people.
Not only this, but He was sent by His Father. “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush Him; He has put Him to grief.” (Is 53:10-11). God initiated. Jesus knew the flawless character of His Father so intimately. There's never been a more perfect, more loving relationship than that of the Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (John 17). They are mysteriously one (mysterious to our finite mind), sharing every attribute (Heb 1:3). Consider the heaviness of Christ’s task done in righteous humanity and yet, done in all-knowing divinity. He absolutely knew that it was a fearful thing for sinful men to fall into the hands of the Living God. (Heb 10:31)
And that’s exactly what happened. The Lord became the sacrificial Lamb to all who would believe in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake He [God] made Him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God.”
We are the sinful ones. We are the ones that trample over God’s majesty. We are the rebels that deserve God's righteous anger. As we get a clearer sense of God’s justice that requires His wrath for sin, it terrifies us. God’s holiness is at the center of all His traits and it makes our sinfulness exceedingly more evident. He is on another level from everything else, completely pure in every way. We are destroyed! We say with Peter, “depart from me, for I am a sinful man, Lord.” (Luke 5:8)
God’s holiness is at the center of all His traits and it makes our sinfulness exceedingly more evident. He is on another level from everything else, completely pure in every way.
Look at how the Bible portrays humans as they came into the presence of God. They were filled with fear. Job, just thinking of God's sovereignty in his circumstance says, “Therefore I am terrified at His presence; when I consider, I am in dread of Him.” (Job 23:) Isaiah, at the sight of God on His throne, fell and exclaimed, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5) John saw a vision of God in Revelation 1:17 and it says he “fell at His feet as though dead.”
Can we fully grasp the meaning of Christ’s birth without understanding the larger significance of why He came? Yes, He was born to bring hope, healing and comfort, but He was also born to absorb the fury of His Father in order to satisfy the holy requirement for sin. This is God’s grace, mercy and compassion that changes everything. This lets His children enter the fellowship and love of the Trinity - no longer as enemies but friends. No longer separated. It’s breathtaking! Jesus said in John 14:23, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)
Yes, He was born to bring hope, healing and comfort, but He was also born to absorb the fury of His Father in order to satisfy the holy requirement for sin. This is God’s grace, mercy and compassion that changes everything. This lets His children enter the fellowship and love of the Trinity - no longer as enemies but friends. No longer separated.
When we view God through the lens of the gospel, we fear Him in a wonderful way - trembling in awe and adoration. A friend recently explained, “all God’s attributes that used to make me run from Him in fear, now make me desire to know Him more”. Christ's sacrifice that satisfied God’s wrath makes the severe become beautiful. I no longer have to hide. God’s holiness and justice and righteousness, all His attributes, are for me. They’re transforming me. This Christmas, I will celebrate with deep gratitude the gift of Christ’s birth that enabled God’s glorious plan of salvation. Terror has turned to joy!
Christ's sacrifice that satisfied God’s wrath makes the severe become beautiful.
“Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” by Charles Wesley
Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all-sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.