Joy to the World: Christmas Worship (Part 3)

The New Creation and the virgin birth are tied together. We don’t often think of the return of Christ at Christmas – that’s largely because we often think of doctrines in singular, isolated concepts. But recreation of the world and the birth of Christ are connected. The uniqueness of the virgin birth announces that the coming of God’s kingdom into our world has already begun. At Christmas we praise God because He is restoring the world.

Take, for example, the fact that the virgin birth is unscientific. Virgin’s do not conceive! But, of course, that is the whole point of the virgin birth. It’s not normal. It is an act of new creation. I love how N.T. Wright talks about this. He says:

The real objection to the virginal conception is not primarily scientific. It is deeper than that. It is the notion that a new world really might be starting up within the midst of the old, leaving us with the stark choice of birth or death; leaving us, like the Magi, no longer at ease: leaving us, in other words, as Christmas people faced with the Herods of the world. (Quoted in Michael Bird, Evangelical Theology, 372)

The Virgin Birth is the inbreaking of a new world. It declares that things won’t always operate the same, that there will be a new way of life coming through the person of Jesus Christ

The virgin birth teaches us to be “Christmas people” in a way quite distinct from how most of us embrace the holly jolly holiday. It teaches us to believe in, long for, and recognize the in-breaking of God’s new Kingdom into our broken world. This birth anticipates a whole new world order. It anticipates the overthrow of death, of sin, of Satan. Michael Bird brilliantly makes the connection between the nativity and the epic scene of Revelation 12:1-11. Bird comments, then:

The scene depicts the cosmic battle between the forces of evil and the hosts of heaven as the context for the birth of Jesus. The woman in question is not Mary; rather, she is the messianic community through whom Jesus is birthed. The child is obviously the Messiah – hence the citation of Psalm 2:9 and his rule over the nations with an iron scepter. The messianic child is removed by God from the malevolent grasp of the red dragon. The removal is allusive of Jesus’ ascension and exaltation. What is important here is that Jesus’ birth and the blood he sheds constitute the victory of God over the evil one. God’s plan to repossess the world from the dominion of darkness is launched in the birth of a child who is destined to defeat the dragon that rages against the people of God. (Evangelical Theology, 373).

The virgin birth announces that the Kingdom of God has already started its coming. It anticipates the day of final destruction for the forces of evil. This is the true story behind our Christmas story!

It’s a story echoed in the very words of Paul in Romans 8. In verses 19-23, we read:

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Paul indicates that the earth has been groaning and suffering. The whole world is in pain and turmoil. Our bodies experience that pain. Our emotions, our whole lives experience that pain. Paul calls this a kind of labor pain. And it is into this world that one mother gives birth to a baby who will set the world right. Jesus is the hope of our broken world.

The Christmas story matters because of the hope it testifies to. It matters because of what it says not just about Jesus, but about the plan of God to restore the world. At Christmas time we imagine the world as a “winter wonderland.” We depict the season as one of “peace on earth and goodwill toward men.” It’s not true, not yet. But the Christmas story is pointing us in that direction. What we long to be true has begun, and one day it will be fully realized. Christmas has given us worship. Let us use this holiday season to praise God and to sing “joy to the world!”

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