Today we conclude Nettie’s Book Club reading of Hidden Christmas by Tim Keller with Chapter 8 where we find a summary of the gifts God has given us through the Christmas story. Tim Keller reminds us that the fact that Jesus Christ really came down to earth on Christmas day means we can have salvation through grace and be reconciled with the Father, no matter who we are or where we come from.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.1 John 1:1-4
Although his passage is not a conventional Christmas passage, it sums up the purpose of Christ’s coming and pays witness to his salvation work for us.
Christmas means salvation by grace alone
In the above passage, John describes Jesus as the word of life which brought us eternal life. Together with the other apostles, he wanted to proclaim this eternal life to all. When we unite ourselves with Jesus Christ and place our trust in him, we also have eternal life. Jesus is all we need for salvation. If we try to add anything to his sacrifice, like living a good life to obtain salvation, we are proclaiming that we don’t need a saviour because we are not so bad that we need saving.
Christmas means that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone. Christmas means that we are humbled out of our pride and shown that we need restoration and forgiveness.
Christmas really happened
In the above passage (1 John 1:1-4) John provides an eyewitness testimony of his interaction with Jesus Christ by repeating that he had seen, heard and touched Jesus. This is crucial evidence that Jesus was born as a human baby boy, was who he says he is and came down to earth to do what he promised to do.
This truth is another confirmation that we need salvation and only Jesus could grant us this gift. If we could be saved by our own efforts then the story of Christmas would just be an inspirational folk tale. But it really happened.
“If Christmas is just a nice legend, in a sense you are on your own. But if Christmas is true – and John says that it is absolutely true – then you can be saved by grace.”Tim Keller, Hidden Christmas
Christmas means we can have a relationship with God
After the Fall in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve were banned from the presence of God. From then on through the history of the Old Testament we see that coming in the presence of God is dangerous. No one could see God. Through the incarnation, all of that changed. The birth of Jesus means that Christianity is the only religion where believers have seen God. Christmas means that Christ becomes the filter through which we can see God’s glory wherever and whenever we want.
Throughout the Gospels, we see the full character of God through the personal relationships of Jesus Christ. Jesus became the mediator between us and God, breaking down the barriers that we, through our sin, have created. Christmas is a challenge to a closer relationship with God.
“Christmas and the incarnation mean that God went to infinite lengths to make himself one whom we can know personally.”Tim Keller, Hidden Christmas
Christmas means we can have joy
John concludes the above passage by stating the intention of his testimony – “we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete”. Christmas means joy. Throughout the New Testament Jesus promised that his joy will be reciprocated in us if we follow him. This joy is not fleeting happiness but a posture based on our foundation and anchor in Christ, regardless of our circumstances.
“The joy that Christmas brings, the assurance of God’s love and care, is like a subterranean river of joy, a fountain of mirth, that will always reinvigorate you no matter the circumstances of life.”Tim Keller – Hidden Christmas
Christmas highlights the ordinary
Tim Keller argues that we often miss out on opportunities for Christian joy because it is obtained by ordinary means. God achieved the extraordinary incarnation through very ordinary circumstances. Jesus was born to poor parents, slept in a stable, surrounded by lowly shepherds only to become a refugee. His birth defied the world’s expectations of what it means to be a King and a Saviour, which means the world still cannot comprehend the Christmas story.
Jesus Christ came to earth to save the weak, poor and sinful by means of their humility not through great feats of striving. Once we are justified through our faith in Jesus, our faith continues to grow through the repetition of ordinary means such as daily obedience, prayers, reading scripture, worship, serving and total dependence on Christ. Our news feeds are filled with temptations to “live our best life” as we achieve greatness to rise above everyone else. But this is not the way of Jesus and usually does not lead to a joyful, sanctified life.
“Don’t be put off by the ordinariness of the means of joy, for in that ordinariness is hidden the extraordinary riches of the Gospel.”Tim Keller – Hidden Christmas
Thank you for reading with me and joining the blessed preparation for Christmas. I wish you a more meaningful and spiritual experience this festive season as you ponder the gifts of Christmas and grow closer to Jesus as we approach the celebration of his birth.
Here is a Christmas sermon by Tim Keller based on the scripture we studied in this Chapter.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of the books studied by Nettie’s Book Club. I am not profiting from the sale of these books. I will carefully select books that have had a significant impact on my faith. My goal is simply to share the wisdom in these books with others so we can assess and apply the wisdom of these authors to grow in understanding of our faith together.