The christmas story began in eternity, happened in time, and has everlasting significance. Only those whose minds and hearts are enlightened by the Holy Spirit can understand its meaning. Here and there in the Scriptures we catch a glimpse of this tremendous truth. Like a look at the earth through a rift in the clouds from an airborne plane, or a fleeting sight of a star in a cloudy sky, God shows us the eternal nature of the Christ of Christmas.

“Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made” (John 17:5, RSV) is such a glimpse of the Christ of eternity.

The verse in the Revelation, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (1:8), places Christmas in its proper perspective, for the Incarnation was a historical event, part of an eternal sequence.

The birth took place at a time when Caesar Augustus ruled in Rome. Christ came when, according to God’s timetable, “the time had fully come” (Gal. 4:4). The determining factors were the conditions that existed in Rome and the nature of Greek culture, and God’s use of these particular circumstances in human history for his own purposes. The historicity of the event is attested by incontrovertible evidence, including the daily witness of our calendars.

The meaning of Christmas is so obscured by the accretions of folklore and the commercialization of the season that only by the Holy Spirit can we understand that we are commemorating a supernatural event that occurred in a natural setting.

The Son of God was born in a town in Judea that still exists. “And Joseph also went up … to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem … to be enrolled with Mary.… And she gave birth to her first-born son …” (Luke 2:4–7). What more natural setting could there be? But supernaturalness was evident, too, for there were the star, the angelic host, and the revelation of divine truth given to simple shepherds who said, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us” (Luke 2:15b). The setting was earthly, but the event was a supernatural revelation.

Not only was the first Christmas a supernatural event in a natural setting; it was also a supernatural event with supernatural manifestations. Any attempt to reduce the Christian faith to terms acceptable, or even understandable, to the unregenerate mind is doomed to failure. We are dealing with spiritual truth that can be understood only through the Spirit of God. The Christmas story contains much that is supernatural.

Article continues below

The Incarnation is a divine mystery. It is not an abstract theological doctrine but a fact to be accepted by faith on the testimony of the Scriptures. The writer of the book of Hebrews spoke in terms his readers could understand when he said, “Therefore, brethren, … we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh” (10:19, 20). This access to God through the person of his Son is a fact to be accepted by faith alone, and the mystery is bound up in the Christmas story.

Surely it is not irrational to believe that God became incarnate in Jesus through a supernatural conception. It would be strange if it had happened otherwise. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). Matthew puts it even more bluntly: Mary “was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit”; “… that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:18, 20). The Virgin Birth is as integral a part of Christianity as the Resurrection.

The supernatural manifestations of that first Christmas continue on through the one born that night in Bethlehem—his perfection, miraculous power, authoritative teaching and preaching, atoning death, and victory over the grave. The manger must be seen in the light of the Cross of Calvary, the birth of the Son of God in the light of the empty tomb, the annunciation of the angels in the light of his return in the clouds with power and great glory.

To ignore or deny the supernatural manifestations of Christmas is to strip it of its eternal significance. The implications of the Christmas story are profound for a world pushing pell mell to destruction, for in it supernatural redemption is offered.

Here there is hope, urgency, and finality: hope in the promise, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21b); urgency in the words, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12); and finality in our Lord’s own affirmation, “No man comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6b).

When the implications of Christmas are reduced to merely secular, social, and material matters, there is a tragic substitution of things that vanish with the using for those that last for eternity.

Article continues below

No one can exhaust the implications of that first Christmas night. No philosopher or theologian can fathom the depths of that event. But a little child can sense the wonder of it all, and the One born in that Judean town can also be born in the hearts of any who will receive him.

The Christmas story is about a supernatural event with supernatural effect. Even then it divided men. As Jesus grew into manhood, lived, died, arose from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and promised to come again, he brought not peace but a sword, not unity but separation, not universal salvation but division.

The supernatural effect of the Christ of Christmas is seen in changed lives—in sinners made into saints, in hatred turned into love, in a fellowship that transcends all racial, cultural, and national boundaries.

Inherent in the Christmas story is the truth that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation to all who believe. We live in the time of ultimate blasphemy, when some theologians are saying that God is dead and on this premise are presuming to formulate a new “Christianity”; this should challenge all Christians to search their own hearts to see whether the Christ of Christmas, the Christ of the Bible, is their God, their Saviour, and the Lord of their lives.

Christmas should be a time of rejoicing for all believers. It should also be a time for pondering the Holy Scriptures, for heart-searching, and for earnestly looking to the Holy Spirit to teach anew the historical facts with their supernatural manifestations, and the effects on all who believe.

Only as we accept the supernatural person and work of the one born nearly 2,000 years ago and understand our own relationship to him today can we enter into the real meaning of Christmas.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.