Christmas: Phase One of God’s Great Rescue Mission
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- Pages: 8
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The full text of this tract is shown below in the NLT version. (Do you want to print this tract in a different version than the one listed? Contact us and let us know what you're looking for—we may be able to create the alternate version for you at no charge.)
By the time January rolls around, the needles are falling off the Christmas tree, the Christmas lights need to be taken down, and you are counting the days until the kids go back to school. Your Christmas presents have lost their luster, the credit card is maxed out, and you’re wondering what the big deal is about a chubby man in a red suit and mandatory meals with relatives. “How did we get here?” you wonder.
And yet the backstory of the first Christmas some two thousand years ago is actually mind-bending. Some have called it The Greatest Story Ever Told. Others refer to it as Phase One of God’s Great Rescue Mission. Imagine the angels’ utter surprise as Jesus, the eternal Son of God, rises from his throne in heaven at his Father’s request. Imagine them gasping as Jesus steps out of eternity and into time and space on his way to the Milky Way Galaxy. One moment he is seated on his throne ruling the universe, and the next he is a tiny embryo growing in the womb of a virgin teenager on a small terrestrial ball that he created.
From Heaven to Bethlehem
Being the Architect of the Cosmos, you would think he would be born in a palace, complete with a parade and a banquet, and be received by world leaders. But no. Jesus makes his entrance into the world in a small out-of-the-way town called Bethlehem, and is laid in a manger. Any onlookers would not have noticed anything out of the ordinary. But make no mistake! This was no ordinary birth, and this was no ordinary baby. The newborn laying on the hay was he who hung the universe. He is the focal point of history. And in this rescue mission, he is the hope of all the world!
But why a rescue mission? Who needs to be rescued? And why would it take the Son of God to pull it off? Well, the story begins like many good stories—in a distant place, long, long ago. God, in the beginning, wanted to share his love, so he created two people in his image to populate and rule the earth. He created them with freedom so that they could love him and obey him without coercion. Yet creating people with true freedom means that they also had the freedom to not love God, as well as to disobey him. Adam and Eve misused their freedom and disobeyed God, causing them and their future children to be alienated from God. Their disobedience would ultimately end in physical death, followed by a worse consequence—final separation from God forever in a place called the lake of fire. In addition, they would now be ruled by God’s arch enemy, Satan, who deceived and robbed them of their rulership.
The High Cost of Man’s Redemption
What would God do in response to humanity’s sin and rebellion against Him? How could God and people ever be reconciled again? Well, God did the unthinkable! He set in motion the greatest rescue mission ever known in the history of the world. But this plan would cost him dearly as he would send his son that first Christmas as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. Here is how the Bible puts it:
Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 1 John 4:14
Yet, to be the Savior of the world, Jesus had to leave heaven and become human. So Jesus came to earth and was born a baby that first Christmas. The following Scripture describes it for us:
But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. Galatians 4:4-5
An Unexpected Pregnancy
Imagine Mary getting the news that she was going to be the mother of Jesus, the Savior of the world. One moment she is dreaming about her upcoming wedding to Joseph, and the next she is face to face with an angel sent from God. Listen to the surprising words of the angel to Mary:
“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Luke 1:30-33
Mary’s pregnancy was a one-of-a-kind pregnancy. She was pregnant, yet still a virgin! Listen to the angel describe it to Joseph:
As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21
After her nine-month pregnancy, Mary gave birth to the Savior of the World! That night in Bethlehem, God showed up wrapped in human form as a baby, and the world has never been the same.
And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. Luke 2:6-7
As you can see, Christmas is not simply a cultural winter holiday. It is phase one of God’s great rescue mission whereby Jesus became human so he could then go on and execute phase two of the mission.
What Is Phase Two of God’s Great Rescue Mission?
Easter! Phase two of the rescue mission has to do with why we celebrate Easter. While we enjoy colored eggs and chocolate bunnies, Easter is about what took place on good Friday and resurrection Sunday. To actually redeem humanity from being alienated from God and separated from him forever, Jesus had to go to the cross and give his life as a sacrifice for the sin of the world and then rise from the dead on that first Easter morn. Consider the following verse:
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:8
This is why Jesus came that first Christmas. He came from heaven so he could become human, grow up, and give his life on the cross as a payment for our sin. At the cross, Jesus absorbed the punishment that we deserved for our sins. Consider the following verse:
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.
What Jesus accomplished that first Easter weekend makes all humanity savable. The empty tomb of Jesus was the Father’s exclamation point that the work to redeem humanity was now complete. The Bible summarizes it in a nutshell:
He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God. Romans 4:25
You Can Be Rescued Today
No one is saved automatically. God has placed a condition for us to actually be rescued from the lake of fire and to have eternal life. That one condition is simply to believe—to believe in Jesus for the free gift of eternal life. Notice that in John 3:16, “belief” is the only condition given to have eternal life:
For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
Jesus did all the work so that we can have eternal life. It is a finished work. We cannot earn it by our merit or our good works. The Bible is clear about this:
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. Ephesians 2:8-9
This then, is the backstory behind that first Christmas. It was phase one of God’s great rescue mission. For those who believe in Jesus for eternal life, the Bible describes their rescue as follows:
For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son. Colossians 1:13
This Christmas, enjoy your Christmas tree, your special meals with family, and your gifts. But most importantly, make sure you possess the greatest gift of all—the free gift of eternal life.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23