In the previous post, we were reminded Jesus’ birth displays God’s power. The stories of Mary and Elizabeth with their unlikely and impossible pregnancies demonstrate the power of God. There is a second reason Jesus is worth celebrating at Christmas and that is….
2. In Jesus, God’s mercy is extended.
Both Elizabeth and Mary testify to God’s power but are also objects of HIs mercy. Elizabeth declares that God “looked with favor” upon her (Luke 1:25). She was not able to bear a child apart from God’s powerful intervention. God extends His mercy toward Elizabeth by providing a child for her. After her baby, John, is born, the people around Elizabeth testify of God displaying “His great mercy” toward her (Luke 1:58). God’s mercy comes to those in need.
Mary is also an example of God’s mercy extending to people in need. She is not one who is in a high position but identifies herself as a “bondslave” (1:38, 48). Mary sees herself in light of God’s position and power. She recognizes that she is not worthy but that God looked with grace upon her (1:28-30). Mary’s Magnificat praises God for His mercy as he “looked upon the humble state of his servant” recognizing that “his mercy is for those who fear him” (Luke 1:46-50).
The Christmas story is a reminder that God comes to people in need. He doesn’t come to those who are worthy and self-sufficient. Rather, He comes to extend His mercy and demonstrate His power through needy people. The purpose is so that those in need would recognize that all they have comes as a gift of God’s mercy and grace.
The extension of God’s mercy is a demonstration of His power.
The Christmas season is a great opportunity to remember and recount the mercy of God by sharing our testimony with others. We are reminded that God in “His great mercy” sent Jesus to people “dead” in their sins to make them alive (Ephesians 2:1-5). God is not a scrooge with his mercy. He is rich and extravagant. He is generous. He is welcoming to those in need. Perhaps a new family traditional revolves around sharing our testimony of God extending His mercy to us in need by bringing us into His family. Or, it may be sharing how God has demonstrated His power or extended His mercy to you over this past year.
By recounting our past and present need for God’s mercy, we are constantly reminding ourselves that our deepest need is not found under the tree or around the tree. Rather, our deepest need is found in the One who was nailed to the tree.
Two women, Mary and Elizabeth, undeserving and incapable to bring about their circumstance to whom God extended His mercy and demonstrated His power. The Christmas story is one for needy people. Once we recognize God’s mercy in our lives, we rejoice because of what He has done and recount His mercy to others.
3. In Jesus, God’s promises are fulfilled.
We are reminded that with Jesus’ arrival, God’s promises find their fulfillment. God’s are fulfilled and will be fulfilled in and through Jesus. Mary recognizes that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises because in Jesus “He (God the Father) has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever” (Luke 1:54-55). God’s promises are an extension of His mercy.
No one has earned God’s gifs or His favor, much less forcing God to make a promise or covenant with them. Rather, God in His mercy, binds Himself to Israel. The problem seems to be that these promises to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3) seem to be unfilled and in jeopardy of ever coming true. Israel enters the Promise Land but their peace was constantly threatened by their neighbors. The kings they demand lead them away from God over time. The nation splits into a northern kingdom (Israel) and southern kingdom (Judah). Due to their rebellion, Israel and Judah are scattered and taken into exile. Even as Mary praises God, the nation has returned in fragmented form to their land but with the Roman Empire ruling over them. It seems as though God has forsaken His people and forgotten His promises.
But, with the arrival of Jesus, God’s promises to Israel are being fulfilled. Later in Luke chapter 1, Zacharias, bursts forth in praise because of Jesus, “Blesses be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people…to show mercy toward our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant” (Luke 1:68, 72). All of God’s promises are fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus. God’s merciful promises come to us through Jesus and will be fulfilled because of God’s power.
Jesus is the reminder for God’s people in all times and all places that God has not forsaken His people or forgotten His promises. What God has said He will, He will do it!
When we are prone to lose heart and wonder if God will fulfill the promises for His people (resurrection, renewed creation, worldwide justice, etc.), we can take heart because with Jesus’ arrival it is a reminder that God’s are fulfilled. Once we recognize this truth, we can respond joy-filled praise and a renewed and hope-filled faithfulness in the present.
Why is Jesus worth celebrating above all else? Because we see God’s power is displayed, God’s mercy is extended, and God’s promises are fulfilled. Our only response this Christmas and all-year around is to joyfully praise our Incarnate God.