RPM, Christmas Special Edition, 2008


Not So Long Ago

By Joseph R. Nally

Theological Editor
Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill)

I remember several Christmas' ago several gifts wrapped under a tree. I remember the square boxes, rectangular ones, and the odd shaped ones, which I cannot fully describe. They had beautiful paper and bows on them. Red paper, green paper, white paper; all so beautiful. They were each particularly and carefully wrapped. They each had a name on them. There was a tree so beautiful so full of life and then the sparkling of all the lights. This is one Christmas I knew I would never forget — if it were mine. See, there was a problem. This was not my home, or my family's. None of these gifts were for my family and friends. Selfishly, none of these gifts were even for me.

On my way home, I knew I would not have such a Christmas. Difficult economic times and a loss of a job made it impossible to have any gifts, much less a selection like the ones I had just seen. My wife would have to be satisfied with an ‘I love you kiss' this year. Other family and friends would have to be satisfied with an e-mail because I could not even afford a card to tell them how much I love and appreciate them. I thought to myself, this year I would miss Christmas and so will many others.

Then a thought passed my mind. You know how it is when you are feeling sorry for yourself. I asked myself, "What is Christmas?" What is "the" gift? What is "the" tree? What is "the" light? See, I get kind of religious during this time of year. But, I thought for a moment to see if I could recall what it was all about.

This gift has an eternal story, a story we call redemptive history. I cannot go through the whole story, but I can in part.

In eternity past, a gift was wrapped. What was this gift? Christ was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for "us" (1 Pet. 1:18-20), His true church. I thought to myself — wrapped in eternity, but unwrapped in time. The gift was wrapped for such a long time. What did that gift go through? If that gift could talk, what would it say?

As I remember, the story begins in a beautiful garden. This garden was perfect. No sin. No sickness. Nothing was going wrong. See, creation was the first Christmas. What gifts! What trees! What lights! Man, what a time that must have been. Perfection! As I understand it, God even walked there. Man, what did I miss? A real Christmas!

Then a little fallen creature came along. He is called a serpent. Others call him the Devil or Satan and various other names. I have a few I would like to add, but that is another story. He tempted the woman in the garden. She messed up — really bad. The man fell into the trap as well. So, much for perfection. So, much for a sinless world. So, much for no hard times. The original gifts became soiled. Some of the trees died. Some of the lights in the heavens disappeared. Decay began. Man became sinful. Thanks, Adam and you too Eve — you ruined the first Christmas for all. Of course, I've added my two cents, or is twenty million cents, to all the problems as well. What a sinner I am!

However, in the midst of the first ruined Christmas there was still this wrapped gift. You know the one wrapped from eternity. It was mentioned there in the beginning. Now this gift was in no way sinfully responsible for the events in the garden, but whatever, or rather whoever this gift was, He was going to suffer for what happened there. That guy with a long beard, Moses, wrote, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel"" (Gen. 3:15). By the description, this gift seemed to be a person who was going to have a genealogy. It appeared His seed would fight against the seed of the serpent. It appears this was a pronouncement of war.

The war definitely began. The seed of the serpent fought against the seed of the woman. Abel, the seed of the woman, was murdered by Cain, the seed of the serpent. Noah, the seed of the woman, was laughed and mocked by the seeds of the serpent. Moses was challenged by Pharaoh. Evil nations rose up against Israel. Then there was David and Goliath and several others. Some of the seed of the woman died and others lived for a time. The same goes for the seed of the serpent. War has its causalities. The battle began in the first book — Genesis, and it is even in the last book — Revelation 12. Battle after battle, when would it all end?

Some prophecies came along the way to give hope to those who were of the seed of the woman and instill fear in those that were of the seed of the serpent. I recall one from a guy named Isaiah. He said, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6). Do you see? The seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15, which shall bruise the head of the serpent, is a child which would be born — therefore He would be fully human. But that is not all He would fully be. He is a Son that would be given as well — as deity cannot be born. Do you see? God gave His Son! Do you see? Jesus was born! Jesus Christ; fully God and fully man. The ribbon was being removed off the gift in history. God was giving mankind a glimpse — a brief glimpse — of the inside of the gift. "Immanuel," which means, "God with us."

Redemptive history continued. Man did this gift get knocked around in time. Every time one of His servants suffered, He suffered. However, when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law (Gal. 4:4). "The fullness of time?" Wait a minute you mean this was all a plan? Yes, a plan that took centuries to unfold. A gift that took ages to unwrap.

I look at the paper this gift was wrapped in. A rainbow of three colors. Indeed, I see red — it is blood. To be sure, I see green — it is life. Yes, I even see white — it represents purity. I even see a card on the outside of the gift, however I cannot read all the names on it. It is an extensive list, but it is not an all inclusive list of everyone in the world. Some names I recognize. Others I thought would be there, aren't. Others I thought could never be, were. I wonder if my name is there? I wonder if your name is there? I'll have to examine this card more fully later. vThe gift is unwrapped in time. Its unwrapping was unusual. I found some details in Matthew 1:18-23 where it says:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
Wow, did you see that. Remember that prophecy in Isaiah and how it was linked to Genesis 3? Now, I read that Isaiah is linked here to Matthew 1. What a plan! Yes, a plan that took centuries to unfold. A gift that took ages to unwrap.

It is recorded of Jesus that He did some fantastic things to prove who He was. He healed the lame, the halt, the withered. He healed the blind, the deaf, and the dumb. He calmed the seas. He even raised the dead. What gifts given by God! That was a pretty good Christmas for some. Others though feared Him. Though He was the tree of life, some sought to put an axe to His root. Though He was the light of the world, some sought to extinguish Him.

However, He did more than just heal the body and rule nature. He literally "saved His people from their sins." See, "the Seed" (Gal. 3:16) came for His seed (Gal. 3:29). Christ came for His church (Eph. 5:25). Christ came for His sheep (John 10:11). Christ accomplished redemption on the Cross for His own (Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21). As one writer puts it, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." That is one large gift — eternal life.

I finally found my name on that card. See, I had forgotten that I had been adopted by a very precious family. The head of that family is called God. I call Him, "my Father." I received this gift by being enabled to believe in Christ, by grace alone. I was given a relationship with God. Now, I am looking for a new Garden, a heavenly home. What a joyful reunion, what a joyful Christ Mass that will be.

I wonder if your name is there? If it is there rejoice with me this Christmas. If you do not see it there, don't you think it is time to ask? Isn't it time to see who is inside this gift? Cry out to God. Ask Him to save you. Ask Him to allow you to confess Christ from your heart. Read the Bible and see how God has unwrapped the gift of gifts for all those who believe.

The gift is still being unwrapped. Will this be your first real Christmas?

This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor.

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