The Christmas Story As I Never Heard It

Dec 3, 2021 by David Fowler

The Christmas Story As I Never Heard It
Three weeks from today will be Christmas Day. Until about two weeks ago I would have called myself a heretic for saying the most fundamental point of Christmas story—the events told in Luke Chapter 2 about the night Jesus was born—is not God sending His Son to earth so “believers” could be forgiven of their sins and go to Heaven. If you’ve been told that salvation is the fundamental point of the story or believe that, as I did, then I encourage you to read on.

Why I revisited the Christmas Story

Before explaining why I now think personal salvation is not the predicate for the Christmas story, let me tell you what prompted me to start revisiting and reflecting on the Christmas story in recent years. I read this statement in John Owen’s Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ and saw myself in it:
Most men will say with confidence, living and dying, that they desire to be with Christ, and to behold his glory; but they can give no reason why they should desire any such thing, – only they think it somewhat that is better than to be in that evil condition which otherwise they must be cast into forever, when they can be here no more. (emphasis added)

I gulped when I read that. Then Owen continued:
If a man pretend himself to be enamored on, or greatly to desire, what he never saw, nor was ever represented unto him, he does but dote on his own imaginations. And the pretended desires of many to behold the glory of Christ in heaven, who have no view of it by faith whilst they are here in this world, are nothing but self-deceiving imaginations. (emphasis added)

Was Owen Right About ‘Self-deceiving imaginations’ of ‘Christians’?

In short, yes. I have been reading and reflecting on 2 Corinthians 4:6 for two years, because the Apostle Paul describes a Christian in a way I had never heard it put:
For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (NKJV).

If asked to write, as Owen did, one hundred pages or so on what I knew of the glory of God Himself arising out of and revealed by who Jesus Christ is, I would have been at a great loss. But that is the purpose of the Christmas story, and the very foundation of the whole story.

The Christmas Story Begins With ‘Fearing a Great Fear.’

The big dramatic event on the night of Jesus birth was “the glory of the Lord shone round” a group of shepherds. Translated literally, this was their reaction, “They feared a great fear.” 

Like the person Owen described, I grew up fearing Hell more than an immediate revelation the glory of God. I suspect the reason is that my “knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” was limited to a superficial understanding that God is holy and I am not.

But throughout the Scriptures, a revelation of the glory of God brings about a very real existential and personal undoing brought about by fear. 
Consider what Isaiah said when he had a vision the glory of the Lord on His throne in His holy temple: “Woe to me. I amdâmâh,” meaning undone or cut off (Isaiah 6:3, NKJV).  The glory of God—the holy, holy, holy perfection of all the attributes of His infinite, eternal being—is such that even the creaturely but perfect angels around the throne Isaiah saw were covering their eyes.
How can we understand this? Imagine being blinded to all other things by starring into the sun. Then think of being blind to the sight of the sun because of the comparative brightness of the glory of the being of God.  That is what being exposed to the glory of God is like; it blindingly blots out every other thing what would otherwise appear glorious to our eyes.
Imparting this knowledge—a revelation of the glory of God, which we can now see in “the face” of His Son, though veiled in human flesh—is the purpose of the incarnation.
That knowledge, when God shines it into our hearts, allows us to see that for all our apparent “righteousness” (Isaiah 64:6) and vain imaginations about who God really is we “fall short of the glory of God “(Romans 3:23, NKJV). Being undone by the knowledge of the glory of God is what leads us to the realization that we need to be re-done.  
That putting us back together so we can revel in not be unraveled by the glory of God is the “good news” the angels alluded to after telling the shepherds not to fear the glory of God. The good news is good in inverse proportion to our knowledge of the glory of God. 

The good news of that re-doing is the Easter story. Check back in April for the glory revealed by that story. 

But check back next week when I apply the glory of the Christmas story to a particular law in Tennessee that actually repudiates the Christmas story.
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. 

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