Didn’t Know Who You Were

The wonderful Christmas season will soon be here. It’s a time to celebrate the divinely supernatural, when God did something for humanity that is so spectacular it has to be experienced personally to be understood.

Christians sing! And well we should because we have much to sing about. The Christmas season will soon be upon us, and everywhere— from the terraced vineyards of Bethlehem to churches the world over to carolers serenading on city streets and families gathered home in festive celebration—songs of the nativity will fill the air.

Their lyrics endure because they spring from a reality found first in Scripture as a promise spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6).

The promise became history centuries later when shepherds, tending their flocks outside little Bethlehem, were visited by an angelic emissary heralding the news that the promised Child had arrived:

And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people” (Lk. 2:9–10).

Isaiah’s “us” described Israel’s ultimate inheritance in the coming “Prince of Peace.” Through Luke’s Spirit-inspired Gospel, the “us” now extends universally: “I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people” (emphasis added).

Thus, when Bethlehem’s stable door swung open on that night of nights, an invitation was issued to every descendant of Adam to come and behold the wellspring of all hope, joy, and peace that God alone could deliver. The unmitigated wonder of that marvel of grace and confirmation of God’s love for us is beyond the scope of our finite powers of comprehension. And an honest appraisal of the human condition verifies the absolute necessity of God’s merciful intervention in Bethlehem some two millennia ago.

Apocalypse
It is not unrealistic to say our world is on a collision course with catastrophe. More and more we’re hearing about apocalyptic conclusions to humanity’s story, as radical degeneracy becomes the accepted standard and enforced lifestyle in Western societies.

The good news is that the nativity assures us a loving God has exposed the final apostasy and introduced a higher hope immune to destruction. The road to the future, one might say, goes up or down. In Christ, the way is always up. But the road heads downward for those who reject the true and living God and influence nations to do likewise. In the end, their legacy will be nothing more than a footnote in history.

Joy to the World
Over the weeks of celebration commemorating Jesus’ birth, we may be urged to remember “the reason for the season.” To some, the slogan may seem trite and superficial. In reality, it spreads a maxim all too often forgotten and too spectacular to trivialize. For it reminds us of a single event, unequalled since the creation: God sent His Son into the world. The mission was accomplished in a fashion no human mind could ever have devised. God, robed in flesh, stepped into time through the Person of His Son to offer a divine peace plan between Creator and created. This plan is so intensely personal it has to be experienced to be fully realized.

In other words, it is divinely supernatural. It cannot be rationally explained but can be seen through the redemptive, life-altering revolution that reshapes the lives of those who have accepted God’s gift of new life in Christ—a transaction duplicated billions of times over in the past 2,000 years. This transaction transcends social and political restrictions and all barriers of language, location, race, and culture to imbue, without bias, the qualities of love, joy, peace, hope, and personal assurance of eternal life. When the unregenerate witness the change in those who have become “born again,” they see attributes reflecting Christ.

My story mirrors that of countless others. Reared in a non-Christian environment, I had a life of ordinary activity— with something missing. Everything changed when the gospel and my need of a personal, new birth through Jesus Christ were explained to me. A key element on my road to redemption was a sermon by Jewish-Christian evangelist Dr. Hyman Appleman. His message was simple and crystal clear. He related my sinful position and God’s gracious provision and told me new life was available through Christ’s redeeming sacrifice on Calvary.

When I accepted the invitation to become a believer, everything changed in an instant. I had peace with God, joy that He had found me, and a never-before-known love for Christ. The new birth was literally a life-transforming experience. Today, some seven decades later, I can thank Him for His “love worth finding,” to borrow a phrase from my late friend, Adrian Rogers.

I’ve been asked countless times over the years about my love for the Jewish people and Israel—something totally unknown to me before my encounter with Christ. My answer is simple: “I met a Jew one day who changed my life. His name is Jesus. Since I met Him, I’ve never been the same, and I owe Him everything.”

I wanted to put that on the record in this my final regular piece in Israel My Glory, which has been so much a part of my life for so many years. I do so with joy, at this season in particular, when we commemorate Jesus’ birth and remember all He has done for us.

Didn’t Know Who You Were
Of all the carols we cherish in our celebration of the nativity, one keeps coming to mind as the demonic crusade to obliterate Christ and Christianity intensifies. The plaintive words of a 1934 spiritual by Robert MacGimsey relate what once was and, should the current downward spiral continue, the haunting prospect of what may well be in the future:

Sweet little Jesus boy—
They made you be born in a manger.
Sweet little Holy Child—
Didn’t know who You was.
Didn’t know you’d come to save us all, Lord;
To take our sins away.
Our eyes were blind, we couldn’t see.
We didn’t know who you was.

The blindness in those days came from neglect. That is, those who knew the truth failed to fulfill their obligation to proclaim a clear gospel message to the masses. The blindness being foisted on us today is self-imposed. To know but to repudiate, conspire to criminalize, and prohibit the very mention of God or Christ are offenses destined to reap irreparable consequences.

In fact, an appropriate analogy can be drawn from the ancient Davidversus- Goliath battle in the Valley of Elah (1 Sam. 17). Every advantage, including size, strength, and equipment, seemed to be on the Philistines’ side. But appearances often deceive. In reality, the lumbering giant was badly overmatched. For Bethlehem’s David, although little more than a boy, carried more than a sling and stones that day. As he declared to Goliath, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts” (v. 45). In His name is the power to move mountains.

And so it is in the valley of current conflict. That fateful night in Bethlehem Judah, a Child was born. To the world at large, He was just another baby boy—one more hungry mouth to feed. Little could people have envisioned what was transpiring in an inhospitable stable that night: “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk. 2:11).

So we will come—some to Bethlehem, more to our churches, some to the homes of our friends in Christ—and we will sing. Simple words proclaiming His birth and universal power to save all who will come to Him. But more than the recitation of words long remembered, ours will be lyrics from the heart.

Merry Christmas.

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