When we think of Christmas what may come to your mind is a round, young virgin and a miraculous birth in a small stable. Or maybe your idea of Christmas is more of a family setting with the exchange of gifts around a glimmering Christmas tree. Maybe your view of Christmas is more about a season of peace and joy where people seem to get along a little better this time of year.
The world we live in has always found a way to distract us from the true meaning of anything having to do with Christ Jesus. Christmas focuses on Santa Claus and Easter focuses on a large bunny. In this study, I want to show you how the story of Christmas is all throughout Scripture. We’ll also see that Christmas is an event in history that all men throughout time have looked forward to and look back on along with all of the other events that emanate from the birth of Jesus Christ.
Let us begin with an important question: How were those before Christ saved from the wrath of God because of their sins? Has there always been only one Christmas? Has there always been only one way to salvation throughout all of time?
Scripture gives us clear answers to this question. Some may say that they were saved by the Old Covenant sacrifices or by following the Law. Others may say that faith in God or confession saved them before Christ came.
However, what Holy Scripture teaches us very plainly is that from the foundation of time the only way that anyone could be saved is through the merits of Jesus Christ. The Puritans called that merit the “crosswork” of Jesus Christ – the atoning death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior. Let us take a journey through God’s Word to see just a few of the many places that show that all of Scripture points to Christ. My prayer is that you will come to always see the shadow of the cross over the Babe in the manger as you celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.
Before the Foundation of the World
Ephesians 1:4 teaches us a glorious truth that God graciously chose us to be in Christ before the foundation of the world. Before we were even born Christmas was set apart for us – for those who God sovereignly chooses to inherit the kingdom through His Son.
Eph. 1:4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.
This is a profound thought and one that deserves meditation and reflection. Before time began, the Holy Trinity came together to decide on the coming of Christ as a man – God in the flesh – to bear the sin of man on His shoulders, to be our substitute.
2Cor. 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Jesus came to this earth as a man and dwelt among us all the while knowing that man would sin and fall. Because of God’s grace and great love for His elect, Christ Jesus came to this earth anyway. Ponder on this glorious truth.
The manger, the stable, the tiny hands of Christ reaching up to Mary – the same hands that made everything by the word of His power. The God off all who humbled Himself to become a man to be obedient unto death is laying in that manger as the Lamb that was worthy to be slain! This is beyond our comprehension. (Romans 11:33)
The Christmas Lamb Promised to the First Humans
How were Adam and Eve saved? That question is often asked. God warned them both that if they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil that on that day they would surely die. These two first humans disobeyed God seeking to be like God and believing the father of lies over their gracious Father. This fall brought about instant spiritual death. They both deserved instant physical death but through God’s mercy they did not die immediately. Like Adam, we deserve instant death but what we receive instead is mercy through each and every heartbeat and breath.
In addition to that undeserved mercy, Adam (and us) received yet another gracious announcement of good news and that was the first gospel – also known by theologians as the protoevangelion. This first gospel promised to these sinners hope – the gift of a Savior who would crush the head of Satan – the very evil one who brought sin into the world.
Gen. 3:14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: 15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
So here we see that Adam and Eve were saved solely on the merits of Jesus Christ – the Lamb of God who was slain before the foundation of the world. We see from this that there is no other way to be saved. Everything, absolutely everything points to Jesus Christ – the author and perfecter of our salvation! (Heb. 12:2)
Let us also be reminded that Scripture makes it clear that Jesus Christ came to destroy the works of the devil.
1 John 3:8b The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.
The Red Blood of the Promised Lamb
The Israelites were in Egypt – enslaved to a wicked pagan nation that symbolized sin and rebellion against the one true God. Where was the promised Lamb? Was is Moses? No, Moses tells the people that God will raise up a prophet like him – the Great, Final Prophet.
God was about to unleash His wrath on Egypt – a symbol of the world that has rejected truth (Rom. 1:25) and rebelled against God. A foreshadow of Christmas would come to them as they spread the blood of lambs on their doorposts. God’s wrath would pass over those covered in the blood. This points directly to Christ – the Lamb of God. Surely many of the Israelites must have thought about Abraham and Isaac – that God would provide the Lamb! (Genesis 22)
Let us also remember with reverent fear that many of those who were saved and in the wilderness, free from the slavery of Egypt, died there because of unbelief. (Heb. 3:19) They rejected the only One who could save them and longed to return to their old sinful ways (which Egypt symbolized). They would rather worship self than to deny self and turn to the living God through Christ. Let us remember that Christ was with them in the wilderness by day and night and was even the rock that streamed water for them to drink. (1 Corinthians 10:4)
The Passover was a pointer to the what Christmas is all about – when the Lamb of God was to be born as fully man, fully God to live a perfect life that we could not live, to die a perfect, sacrificial death in our place and to rise victoriously over death for our justification. (Romans 4:25)
The Temple and Christ
The temple is one of the earthly copies of what is in heaven. One only need to read the vision of John in Revelation to see a glimpse of the heavenly original. Moses was given instructions on building the temple from God and it is an earthly copy of the heavenly original. The temple stood as a glorious pointer to Jesus Christ! John writes that when Jesus became flesh He dwelt among us. The greek used there literally means to tabernacle.
John 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
God gave Moses explicit instructions on temple worship and on the procedures of the sacrifices to be handled by the priests. The Day of Atonement was undoubtably the most graphic of the sacrifices that pointed to our Savior. (Leviticus 17:34)
Year after year these sacrifices would take place as a pointer to Christ. People would witness the death of innocent animals to take their place and the blood of the animals would be everywhere. All of this visually pointed to our Savior – the promised One who would crush the head of Satan and the Prophet that God would raise up like Moses. The people would see that each year atonement had to be made because the blood of bulls and goats cannot wash away sin!
Heb. 10:4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Let us be reminded too of the items in the temple – such as the table of showbread – pointing to Christ as the bread of life and the body that would be broken for our sins. David himself, trusting in Christ alone (Psa 110:1), knew that the showbread only pointed to Christ and that is why he ate the consecrated bread in the temple when he and his companions were hungry. (Matt. 12:3-4)
The Lamb of Christmas Virgin Born
The prophesies of Jesus’ birth (the Christmas story) are all throughout Scripture. Namely, there is a focus on our Lord coming to this earth being born of a virgin.
Isaiah gives a powerful prophesy concerning the virgin birth:
Is. 7:14 “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
Imagine, the “Christmas story” was told to men, women and children over 600 years before Christ was born! They looked forward in faith as we look back in faith. Imagine as well the imagery of the sacrifices in the temple and the yearly Day of Atonement as those who believed read and understood this and other passages of Scripture that point to Christ the Lamb.
Luke also gives the account of the birth of Christ and the message from Gabriel to Mary that she would have a child as a virgin.
By why? Why a virgin birth? Let us remember that the fall of Adam caused us all to be sinners. (Romans 5:18) Adam held headship over the entire human race. When Adam sinned, we all became sinners. It is why Scripture calls Christ the Second Adam – to undo what Adam has done. (Romans 5:12-19; 1 Cor. 15:22)
The virgin birth circumvented the imputation of Adam’s sin. Since Christ, as a man, was born of a virgin Adam’s sin was not imputed to Him – allowing Him to be born of a woman as a man but not from man’s seed which would impute sin.
Heb. 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
Like a Lamb Led to the Slaughter
The prophesies of Christ’s birth are coupled throughout Scripture with the foretelling of His death. Isaiah contains some of the most beautiful passages of Scripture that describe the atoning death of our Lord and Savior.
Isaiah wrote around 680 BC which means that these prophesies were written over 600 years before the birth of Christ and before crucifixion had even been invented. The glorious truths of Scripture shine forth to herald the coming of the Lamb of God who was slain before the foundation of the world.
Let us read together the entire chapter of Isaiah 53 …
“Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. 3 He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face he was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. 6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. 7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? 9 His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth. 10 But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. 11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.”
Here we have a promise of what the first Gospel in Genesis foretold, the Passover Lamb in Exodus looked forward to, the temple and the sacrifices pointed to, the birth of a child from a virgin womb and now the reason for His birth: the glory of God in the salvation of man by grace alone! The Lamb of God will take our place!
Paving the Way!
Nearly 430 years of silence from when Malachi wrote of the coming of one in the spirit of Elijah who would make straight the way of the Lord have passed. (Mal. 3-4) Then we hear the voice of one crying out in the wilderness “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29) Notice John does not say, “Behold the Lion from the tribe of Judah!” – but the Lamb – the Lamb of God.
The Lamb that just 30 years earlier was born to a virgin and announced by a throng of angels to lowly shepherds. Temple shepherds no doubt who were responsible for tending to the animals that were to be sacrificed in the temple!
Christmas is now a reality in the flesh! The coming Messiah is born – born to die as the Lamb of God. Born to fulfill all that is written about Him! (Luke 24:25-27)
Luke 24:25 And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
All that the early fathers like Abraham longed to see (John 8:56) was now made flesh (John 1:14). They all looked forward to this Christmas miracle and the sacrifice it entailed as we look back on it in faith.
As you can see, all mankind has been and is saved in the same way. We are saved only through and in the atoning, propitiating sacrifice of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen!
The Death of the Lamb
“It is Finished!” harked the voice of love and mercy as it sounded aloud from Calvary!
All that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit had lovingly decided on before the foundation of the world was now completed – the goal has been met.
The Lamb of God – God in the flesh – fulfilled the atoning, propitiatory work that all Scripture had pointed to from the foundation of the world.
Hallelujah to the Lamb!
The Rejoicing of Angels
Through the obedient death of the Lamb of God, our Savior is now at the right hand of God continually making intercession for His elect. The promises of Christmas are constantly reminded to us through the gift of salvation and of the Holy Spirit who constantly molds unto into the image of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.
John the Baptist heralded the Lamb of God to be slain, and now in heaven the Lamb is now the Lion…
“I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. 2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it. 4 Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it; 5 and one of the elders *said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.” 6 And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. 7 And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. 8 When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they *sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 10 “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” 11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” 13 And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” 14 And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped. (Revelation 5:1-14)
Bursting aloud are millions and millions of angelic voices as they sing to the Lion and Lamb – He that is worthy! He that purchased a kingdom of priests to glorify Him into all eternity who deserves all honor, glory and praise! Amen – it is true! It is true!
May we humbly take all of Scripture to understand the truths of God’s Word in all of its unfathomable glory. May we be reminded constantly this Christmas of the shadow of the cross over the tiny Baby of Glory in the manger.
May we be reminded of who He is – the King of kings and Lord of lords who humbled Himself as a man and became obedient unto death on a cross to save wretches who deserve nothing but eternal damnation.
May we rejoice that in and through Him we are made children of God to glorify and praise Him forever and ever! (Rev. 5:9-10)
This Christmas as you adorn your Christmas tree with ornaments and gifts, let it be a humbling reminder that “cursed is the man who hangs on a tree.” (Gal. 3:13)