Here we are at the Holidays. Signs of the secular are all around us. Shopping, gifts, getting together, Travel, Santa Claus, Snowmen, Jack Frost, decorating and Christmas Trees. Despite all of these staples of the season a question lingers…Why the season?
In the 8th Century B.C., prior to the Assyrian conquest of the northern tribes of Israel, the Prophet Micah, writing from Jerusalem gave this famous prophesy:
Verse 1-2 “Marshal your troops now, city of troops, for a siege is laid against us. They will strike Israel’s ruler on the cheek with a rod. (Matt. 27:30) But you Bethlehem Ephrathah though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel; whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Matt 2:6; Luke 2:4
Verse 3-5 “Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. (Luke 1:32) And he will be our peace…” (Luke 2:14)
What was foretold here in the Tenakh as quoted came to pass in the times of Yeshua, as found in the Gospels at the verses cited. Two hundred years prior to Micah, David the King wrote Psalm 2:5-8. It states, “He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain. I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: The Lord has said unto me, You are my son, this day I have begotten you (Luke 3:22, John 1:18, Acts 13:33) Ask me and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.”According to the inspired psalms of David in the Tenakh, he who was born in Bethlehem, whose throne and authority are from God the Father, is the Son of God.
In Matthew Chapter 1: 20-23 The Angel of the Lord visits Joseph telling him that God’s Spirit has created life in the womb of Mary. When she gives birth the child will be a son who must be named Yeshua, which means Yahveh’s Salvation for he will save his people from their sins. The prophet Isaiah, also writing in the 8th century B.C., spoke of him when he wrote in 7:14; “Behold a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel which interpreted means God with us.” The word used in the Hebrew only refers to virgins; if even a young girl is married she is referred to as a woman, a wife, a widow, or a mother, not a young girl. No matter how young, a girl who was not a virgin would be referred to as a harlot or just as “a woman.”So the name Yeshua describes what he will do and the name Immanuel describes what he is. One named Yeshua can only remove our sins if he is Immanuel, because only God can remove sin.
Now concerning sin, in Romans 3:23 the Apostle Paul, reflecting upon Psalm 14:2-3 among other parts of the Tenakh, declares that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Since we have all sinned let’s discuss where we are as sinners
Those who profess Jesus as Lord give into fleshly temptation or are swayed by Satan are convicted after they sin and ask for forgiveness. Their sins are cleansed because Leviticus 17:11 states; “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes an atonement for the soul.” Since there has not been a blood sacrifice since the year 70 A.D. how is this accomplished? According to the Prophet Isaiah Chapter 53: 10-12 “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him: he has put him to grief: when you shall make his soul an offering for sin…by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many for he shall bear their iniquities…because he has poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Since Yeshua poured out his blood as Isaiah described he and he alone makes atonement for our sin.
In terms of universalism Roman Catholics believe that any person who partakes in Catholic rituals and sacraments would not go to hell, but at worst to purgatory. Therefore people can be saved through their works. This is significant since Roman Catholics believe in purgatory; denominational Protestants and Orthodox Christians do not.
Universalism between Mainstream or Denominational Protestants is different — less dependence upon sacraments and rituals beyond baptism and confirmation, and more reliance on the idea that professing Christ is sufficient to avoid hell, regardless of whether one has a personal relationship with Him through prayer or follows Him in obedience to His teachings.
The Orthodox do not have a concept of purgatory, but rely heavily upon rituals and sacraments as well as works of charity and contrition [fasting and prayer.
Isaiah 64:6 states, “But we are all an unclean thing; and all our righteous deeds are as filthy rags; and we all fade as a leaf; and our iniquities like the wind have taken us away.” God’s judgment is not like a drill sergeant weighing merits and demerits; God’s standard is His own holy perfection. One sin is imperfection. Gal. 3:10 “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Also, James 2:10 “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it”
Agnostics/Atheists. Since they do not believe and view themselves as being practical they most probably do not have a view of sin, redemption/forgiveness. Their unbelief declares that they have no interest in a life to come.
Rabbinical Jews believe Leviticus 17:11 has been replaced with prayer, fasting, and good deeds. They observe the Day of Atonement but do not believe that blood sacrifice applies since there is no Temple. Their error is in they have placed rabbinical interpretation [the “Oral Law”] above the Scripture concerning the atonement for sin and the words of the Prophet Isaiah.
Secular or progressive Jews. Most do not believe in an afterlife. Being identified as being Jewish is most important. They reject Jesus and this is considered an important ingredient of remaining Jewish
Hindus are polytheists with a wide range of beliefs and ritual duties. Hindus believe they must act in accordance with their duty, which is a reflection of the station in life into which they are born. If they continue to excel at “living well” through successive incarnations, they will eventually reach oneness [atman] with Brahma. There are many aspects of dutiful, obedient living, including rituals like pilgrimages to shrines or to bathe in the Ganges River. Performing these rituals demonstrates obedience to one’s duty and to the gods. There is no concept of sin, divine judgment or atonement.
Buddhism is an outgrowth of Hinduism. Its founder, Siddhartha Gautama, was a wealthy Hindu prince who rejected wealth and privilege to seek Truth, became enlightened and discovered how to end reincarnation and attain Nirvana. Buddhists believe that one can escape the ceaseless cycle of rebirth by rejecting materialism, worldly status and power, and reaching a point of being free of desire. There is no concept of sin, divine judgment or atonement.
Sunni Muslims believe in obedience to Allah’s will as revealed through Muhammad in the Qur’an, and by emulating the example of Muhammad as recorded in the hadiths and codified in shari’a law can help them attain more good deeds than bad deeds. This is the only way one can be accepted by Allah as worthy of Paradise, therefore no Muslim knows their eternal destiny until death. Good deeds include regular prayer, fasting, charitable giving to the mosque and Muslim causes, and participating in the hajj to Mecca. Non-Muslims are all doomed. There is no concept of atonement.
Shi’a Muslim beliefs are similar to those of Sunnis, but they put greater emphasis on self-sacrifice including martyrdom as an important ingredient to entering paradise. Shiites also have additional places of pilgrimage, and also believe in the power of rituals to gain Allah’s forgiveness for sin
What do you believe is true? If you believe that God loved us so much that he became one of us in order to deal with our collective sin problem then a relationship with Jesus is for you. In Biblical Christianity God does the work of salvation. In all other faiths the work of salvation is up to you.
The true meaning of this season is to celebrate that God entered the world where we live to deal with our sin problem. It acknowledges that we cannot attain the heaven of God without the sacrifice of God on our behalf. Merry Christmas