By Pastor Bob Benson,
Grayling, Houghton Lake, and Mio Seventh-day Adventist churches
When I think of the true meaning of Christmas, I think of the most crushing crisis that has ever been (and ever will be) experienced in the history of the universe. The story is unpacked in the throne scene drama of Revelation 5. God is pictured as sitting on His throne. In His right hand is a scroll on which is written the plan of salvation. Why the scroll? Because planet earth would be without a single living human being on it.
UNLESS someone could be found worthy to open the scroll and implement the plan of salvation. But NO ONE was found! The Apostle John began to weep, just like the angels of God must have wept when Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” God had promised, “the day you eat of it, you will surely die!”
It was because of Adam and Eve’s unfaithfulness that this world was plunged into being filled with death, sorrow, crying, and pain. Joining John and the angels weeping, I suspect every one of us have filled literal buckets of cried tears in our lifetime because of the baleful effects that sin has brought to our planet.
Just when we’re ready to throw in the towel and recognize we are going to get what our sins deserve (dying the eternal death from which we’d never come back to life), one the elders in John’s heavenly vision says, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah…has prevailed to open the scroll and to lose its seven seals.” Hold it! Wait! WHAT? The Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Jesus), because of His willingness to be born into the human family, to live a perfect life for us, and to pay the death penalty our sins deserve for us. He qualified to open the scroll of salvation and to put its plan into play!
John looks at God’s throne surrounded by four living creatures and the elders, and in its midst stood a Lamb as though it had been slain! That’s Jesus, our substitute “Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world.”
When the universe had just encountered the worst news in the history of existence, later that day, the best possible news followed. Jesus, our Creator, announced that He would be born into our human family, would bear the guilt of rebellious sin of every human being, and pay our death penalty for us. It was this great news that caused the angel of the Lord to say to the Bethlehem shepherds, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people! For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, Christ the Lord.” Then the heavenly choir burst forth singing, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men.”
What is the plan of salvation? Christ has become our substitute, bearing the guilt of our sin, and has paid the death penalty we should have paid. If we accept the gracious gift of repentance, accept his substitutionary sacrifice on our behalf, and confess our sins to Him, we can receive the gift of being forgiven. Aaved by grace through faith, and not perish but have everlasting life. Jesus said, “And this [good news] of the kingdom must be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations, and THEN the end will come.”
What does Christmas mean to me? It means going from being plunged into the darkest midnight of human experience because of our sins, to the most glorious light and life because of Jesus’ birth, sinless life, and atoning sacrifice gift! It gives those who choose to accept God’s most gracious Gift all that even the worst sinner could ever need to have the assurance of forgiveness, a more abundant life now, and know that they who continue to belief HAVE eternal life. As the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will to men.” Merry Christ-mas, human family!