I recently saw a Christmas meme that got me thinking. It was a picture of Santa Claus in his sled with a big bag of presents, reindeer, bells, whistles and one simple word, “Believe.”
I do believe. I believe in the existence of St. Nicholas. He was a hero of the early church. He famously punched the heretic Arius at the Council of Nicaea for claiming that Christ was not equal to God the Father. I believe St. Nicholas would be quite horrified if he knew what was done in his name these days. He would point us to the true meaning of Christmas, and the real Gift to the world that we should all believe in.
This real gift is Jesus the Messiah. He was promised throughout the Old Testament, right from the very first chapters of Genesis, and in hundreds of prophecies describing in detail when He would be born, where He would be born, His specific bloodline (Seed of Judah, Shoot of Jesse, Son of David), His mother being a virgin, His hometown, John the Baptizer who would come before Him, the types of miracles He’d perform, His speaking in parables, His betrayal by a friend, His rejection by His people, His violent death, His means of burial and His resurrection from the dead.
The Old Testament is alive with whispers of Him, and hints about Him, types and shadows of who He will be. You see it on almost every page: Messiah is coming, believe in Him, He will do great things for His people. He will be a man like Adam, like Abel, like Seth, like Noah, like Melchizedek, like Abraham, like Isaac, like Joseph, like Moses, like Samuel, like David, like Solomon, like Daniel, like Jonah.
He will baptize us, as with Noah and the flood, as with Moses and the Red Sea, as with Elisha and Naaman the leper. But Christ’s baptism is a baptism into His death, and a raising into new life in Him. Something greater than Moses was here.
He will feed us: as with Melchizedek, Priest of the Most High God, who gave Abraham bread and wine, a shadow of the sacrament we feast on to this day. He was the Passover Lamb, whose blood protects us from the angel of death. He was the Manna in the desert that fed Moses and the fathers. He was the Rock that was struck which gave them life-giving water and saved them from dying. He is the one poured out for us all. His is the life that is in the blood. He, the serpent raised upon a stake, so that all who look to Him might be saved. He is the one cursed for us, who is hanged upon the tree.
He will give us rest. In the Old Testament, this is foreshadowed as a Commandment: rest on the Sabbath Day. When Messiah comes, He rests for us, because even that, we cannot do ourselves. So we enter into His rest – His perfect rest, and we are granted that eternal rest in the bosom of God the Father. This rest does not just happen when we die, we enter that rest when we are granted faith in Christ. We are at peace because we are no longer burdened and heavy laden. The life we live, we live by faith in the finished work of Christ.
Through the prophet Isaiah, God has this to say,
“Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven… The Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Isaiah 7:11-14 ESV
Some people would have you think that this is speaking of a young woman giving birth, not a virgin, but why then would God describe it as a sign as high as heaven and as deep as Sheol? Young women give birth every day, but only once has a virgin given birth. The sign was seen in the heavens, pointing to the place where the Holy Baby lay. Sheol saw Him too, when He went to proclaim His triumph to the spirits in prison there.
Old Saint Nick is said to keep lists of those who are naughty and those who are nice, only bringing gifts to the nice ones. Well, I tell you, something greater than Santa was here: God tells us that we all stand condemned, each one of us is sinful and deserves nothing but His just and righteous condemnation. All are naughty, none is nice. God doesn’t hold back though, despite our sins, He sent a Gift to earth to reconcile us to Himself, to cleanse us from all our unrighteousness.
Yes, Christ came to take that condemnation upon Himself, to carry our sins and burdens, to die in propitiation for the sins of the whole world – for whomever believes and is baptized.
I believe. I believe in the true gift of Christmas and in all that He has done.
I pray that you will believe too.