25th December 2011

Christmas Time:  Salvation Of The Whole World

“‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests’”
Luke 2:10-14 (NIV UK)

In the days when Jesus was born in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago, there was a devout old man called Simeon living in Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. One day the Spirit led Simeon into the temple courts—the very day that Jesus’ parents brought in the infant Jesus to fulfil the requirements of Torah. When Simeon saw the baby, he took Jesus in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).

Simeon praised God for what the scribes, the Pharisees, the chief priests and the teachers of the law could not comprehend: Israel’s Messiah was not for the salvation of Israel only, but also for the salvation of all peoples of the world. Isaiah had prophesied it long before: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6).

God had called the Israelites out from among the nations and set them apart through a covenant as his own special people. But he did it not merely for them; he did it for the eventual salvation of all nations.

When Jesus was born, an angel appeared to a group of shepherds who were watching their flocks by night. What the angel said to them appears above, emphasising that his coming was for everyone. Later, in describing the scope of what God did through Jesus Christ the apostle Paul wrote: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:19-20). Just as Simeon had declared of the baby Jesus in the temple courts, through God’s own Son salvation had come to all the world, to all sinners everywhere, even to all the enemies of God.

Paul wrote to the church at Rome, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.… While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:6-10).

Despite the failure of Israel to keep the covenant God made with them, and despite all the sins of the gentiles, God accomplished through Jesus everything necessary for the salvation of the world. Jesus was the prophesied Messiah, the perfect representative of the covenant people and, as such, he was also the true light to the gentiles, the One through whom both Israel and all nations have been delivered from sin and brought into the family of God.

And that is why the Christmas season is a time to celebrate God’s great gift to the world of his one and only Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Holy Father, thank you for your vision towards mankind. You always had in mind everyone, and your grace through Jesus Christ is extended to all. May this understanding shine through our celebrations of his first coming.

Study by Joseph Tkach

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