It’s about stewarding the story of the incarnation, and not just that, but the whole story of God’s plan of redemption through his Son. As Christians, we are not only called to be good stewards of our time, talents and treasure; we are also called to be stewards of our testimony, which a story of redemption – historically, but also personally as we witness to its transforming power in our lives.
In the Christmas season, as we spend so much of our time, energy, and money preparing for the holiday, we can get lost in it all and easily lose sight of the majesty and wonder of the momentous day in human history that it commemorates and celebrates. So, as good stewards of our testimony, we must not take our gaze away from the miracle in the manager. But as amazing and miraculous as it was, it was just one event – albeit a significant one – in God’s eternal plan.
He was born in history, but he is greater than history
There is some disagreement over the actual date of Christ’s birth (most scholars believe it was in the Spring), but that doesn’t matter; what is most important that it did happen, in history past, on a certain date that had been pre-ordained by the Father. The Son and the Holy Spirit knew the day, but the angels didn’t. And even if they did, they wouldn’t have understood.
It is good and right and joyously uplifting to reflect on Christ’s birth and to worship God for it. We love to hear and sing about this wonderful story. The focus is on a little baby lying in manager—God became a man. But that is only a part of God’s revelation of his Son. Bethlehem must lead us to Jerusalem; the manger must lead us to the cross.
Christmas should cause us to think beyond the incarnation and to meditate on God’s ultimate plan for all of history; in fact, his ultimate goal for all history, which is for all things to be united in Christ as he reigns supremely over all forever.
Some of you may be history buffs. I would not describe myself as a history “buff”, per se’. I do however like to occasionally read wartime histories, especially about WWII (perhaps because my father served as a marine in the pacific during that time). I understand and appreciate human history and the history of the world as something worth studying and contemplating.
But anyone who knows their history would be very aware of the impact that Jesus’ birth has had on the history of the world. Even the secularist would admit that Jesus had a greater impact on the world than any other figure in history. And in many ways, the liberty, democratic government, and economic systems we all benefit from, though flawed in many ways, came about due to the influence of Christianity on the world.
But Christ is not just an important figure in all of human history—he is much greater than that—he is the sum and substance of history itself. What I am talking about here is what I would call a “transcendent” history—a history of histories that overshadows all the history taught in our schools and enshrined in our memorials. It is the history of God himself as he has, and forever will, “work all things according to the counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:11).
The Bible teaches us that history is neither a random set of chance occurrences nor is it the exclusive result of the choices of men, whether good or bad (as the secularists and humanists would hold). No, history was planned out exactly and in every minute detail before time began. From before the beginning of the world, God knew his every work, and had laid out his detailed designed plan; and then he sovereignly and unerringly worked it all out to glorious perfection.
He is the goal of all history
This, dear readers is the history of histories, and although it began in the eternal mind of God, it is was wonderfully displayed in the incarnation when God sent his only Son, the eternal Word and third person of the Trinity, that had been with him from eternity past to earth to be born as a baby.
But even the incarnation, as glorious as it was, was not the essence and ultimate goal of the eternal and immutable plan of God. What then, you may ask? Well, there is one complete, true, and all-encompassing answer to this “question of questions”: It is sacrifice and resurrection and final triumph of the spotless Lamb of God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
As we read in Eph. 3:11, God works all things “…according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God’s ultimate, eternal purpose is that all his plans would lead to Christ and be realized through Christ, his Son; his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ultimately, the consummation of the ages of human history when all things are placed under his feet.
As Christians, we celebrate Christmas and also Easter as both were historically recorded events. But Christ did not just come and die in our earthly time, he existed in eternity past and by divine decree was, “slain before the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4-5, ESV).
So, in the same way the angels, shepherds, and the magi were gathered together to worship the newborn Messiah at his birth, so too were the rulers of his day ordained to do what God had “predestined to take place” (see Acts 4:27-28). They could no nothing except what God’s hand and eternal counsel brought to pass, which was the crucifixion of Christ, just as God had planned from the beginning, long before his birth.
Therefore, it was the crucifixion of Christ, not his incarnation, that was the crowning moment in all of history; in fact, the thing for which history has been designed, and the event toward which all of history was moving. And furthermore, it will be the event to which all of history will look back as the most glorious display of God’s magnificent grace.
Steward His-story well
Our great testimony is that this glorious plan, which began with the eternal covenant within the Trinity, was undertaken by the Son at the request of the Father as he willingly set aside his place in glory and came to earth in the form of a man, appearing first as a helpless baby in Bethlehem. He then lived a sinless life and died a sacrificial death that accomplished all that the Father had planned. That is why he prayed, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word” (John 17:4-6, ESV).
These climactic historic achievements were accomplished in human time, approximately 2,000 years ago, when Christ came down to live a perfect life, and to offer himself up as a substitutionary sacrifice for those whom the Father would give to him as brothers and sisters in exchange for his marvelous work of love and mercy – and that includes you and me! And not just us, but all those who hear his call and respond with saving faith.
In the midst of so much trouble and strife in this world, consider what was the ultimate purpose of this history-climaxing event, with its monumental and victorious results. Just as surely as Jesus was born, and lived and died, and rose from the dead, so too the day will come when he will be worshiped by every tribe and every tongue; every knee will bow to him, and he will rule over all his enemies in the ages to come.
In sum, the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection were ordained by God so that, “in the dispensation of the fullness of the times, all things might be brought together in Christ” (Ephesians 1:10); and so that, “in everything he might be preeminent…in him all the fullness of God [might be] pleased to dwell” (Colossians 1:18-19, ESV).
The news is even bigger, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring’” (Acts 17:28). Therefore, there is no person, event, or activity in all of history, however insignificant, that does not find its true meaning and purpose only in relation to Christ’s birth, but most of all his great work on the cross.
Think of this as you contemplate the baby in the manager, and let us all steward this story well as we rejoice during this Christmas season.