The Christmas Tree and Calvary’s Tree
“When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore, you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Gal. 4:4-7)
Christmas is a wonderful season when we remember the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. His birth brought the hope of redemption and sonship to this lost world. Samuel Zwemer, referring to the Apostle Paul, states, “The only Christmas tree he knew was the tree on Calvary. He was so close to the event that he felt its full and awful significance” (Samuel M. Zwemer, The Glory of the Manger, Kindle Loc 107). To the Gospel writers and the Apostle Paul, the birth of our Savior in Bethlehem was the prophesied event in which all other events find their culmination. Without the first advent, there is no Cross and no future glory for us.
As we decorate our Christmas trees with garland, our spirits should be transported to the tree on Calvary where Jesus died to bear our sins. The lights we hang should draw us to the “Light of the World,” who shines to a world “sitting in darkness.” Paul experienced this “light” on the road to Damascus. John echoes Paul as the Spirit states: “The Word was made flesh... and we beheld His glory as of the only begotten from the Father full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
As we gather with family to celebrate our Savior’s birth, our attention should transition from the Christmas tree to the tree of Calvary. We need to be reminded and burdened for all the people in bondage to sin and Satan. As followers of Christ, our Lord’s advent must remind us that so many people have not yet received the gospel of Jesus Christ. The hope of Christmas is fulfilled at Calvary!
Christmas and our Lord’s advent reminds us of a second advent when He will come in wrath for those who have rejected or ignored His offer of salvation (Mal. 4:1-5; 2 Thess. 1:7-8). Paul contrasts the adoption as children of God, through the Manger and the Cross of Jesus Christ, with the slavery of the Law. Muslim people, living under the slavery of Allah, find that their closest contact with Allah is a book--the Quran. The concept of adoption as sons does not exist in the teachings of Islam; therefore, the people can only hope for a servant-master relationship.
Paul, in Galatians 4, not only explains that we have adoption as sons through the Manger and the Cross, but we also have the continuous indwelling presence of God through His Spirit (Gal 4: 4-7). We are now the temples of the Almighty God with the presence of His Spirit in us! We are no longer slaves but children of God. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19), and we are seated with Him in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). Ultimately, we will rule and reign with Him (2 Tim. 2:12).
What a stupendous event is the Incarnation and Atonement of our Savior!! Let’s celebrate Christ this Christmas season but let this season also make us uncomfortable and determined to reach Muslims who “sit in darkness” without the hope of the Savior in the manger.
Samuel Zwemer’s words, written over 100 years ago, ring true today in our world:
In our day we are told to look for “the historic Jesus,” the man of Galilee, a teacher sent of God, the friend of the outcast and the oppressed, the critic of society’s injustices. But a merely human Christ, no matter how humane and tender, cannot suffice. We need the Lord of Glory, the Christ of eternal love and eternal redemption, the Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world. We need a Saviour who is alive forevermore and who abolished death and brought life and immortality to the world by His Incarnation. (The Glory of the Manger, Kindle Loc 162)
This year, may the Christmas tree lead us to Calvary’s tree!