Devotional Word for Wednesday, December 3, 2020
Well, the Christmas season is upon us. As my festive sweater makes clear, Christmas is just three weeks and one day away. I think the sights and smells of Christmas are perhaps the most evocative. That is to say that more than any other holiday, event, or time of the year the goings on of Christmas bring memories to my mind. I remember the foods my mom used to make. I remember the decorations strewn about the house (in fairness my brother and I did a lot of the strewing in the hopes that we would be allowed to go play golf.). Each year on Christmas morning we would get up, unwrap presents, eat breakfast, and get in the car. We would travel 2.5 hours to family and the process (particularly the eating) would repeat (and then again later that day with more family).
As we think about the joy and fun we have during the Christmas season, I believe there is a temptation to think of Lord Jesus and what we confess about Him as stuffy or stifling. I mean, we have been examining the Heidelberg Catechism for 14 weeks (we are approximately 1/3 of the way through). Can’t we just say Merry Christmas and be done with it? The answer is no. In fact, it is an emphatic no, and today’s question and answer (number 36) will help us see why. Question 36 asks, “What benefit do you receive from the holy conception and birth of Christ?” Remember that we spoke earlier in the week about the how both the Apostles’ Creed and Heidelberg Catechism highlight Jesus’ conception via the Holy Spirit and birth of the Virgin Mary. We spoke about how that is a reminder that He is truly God and truly man which is a reality Christians must confess. Well, question 36 basically asks, “So what?”
Listen to the answer. It says, “That He is our Mediator, and that, in God’s sight, He covers over with His innocence and perfect holiness the sinfulness in which I have been conceived.” Now just stop and wonder at this statement. Jesus with His innocence and perfect holiness covers over our sinfulness. He is able to be innocent because He does not share in Adam’s sin like you and I do. The reason we say that is because the Scriptures tell us that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Listen to how Matthew 1:18-20 describes it. Here Mary is found to be with child by the Holy Spirit and an angel speaks to Joseph to inform him that this child is indeed conceived of the Holy Spirit. Because of this conception of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is able to cover the sins of His people.
Because He is born of Mary and truly man, His payment counts. The blood of bulls and goats did not ultimately cleanse from sin. If they could have, then only one sacrifice would have to have been made. Instead, Paul describes these sacrifices and the Law they were apart of as a tutor which points us to Christ. We may well ask, “Why didn’t the blood of animals atone for the sins of people.” I think the Lord provides a framework for this in Genesis 9. There remember that Noah and his family have just stepped off the ark onto dry land. As the Lord makes a covenant with Noah, He communicates that the blood of man will be called for those who spill the blood of others. In short, punishment is like for like with the offense committed. As we think about the Law, slaying an animal because of the sin of man is not like for like. The Lord Jesus, who is truly man, provides in Himself the perfect sacrifice for sins.
As He is truly God and truly man, He makes atonement for our sins. He covers our sinfulness and unrighteousness. He does so in such a way that we do not sacrifice any more animals. His work is perfect. By faith we call upon Him as our Lord and Savior and rest in the knowledge that He has made us righteous and holy. This is the knowledge that comes with Christmas. While Christmas sweaters, good food, and family traditions can be wonderful time and a cause to celebrate, we cannot divorce the season from the Savior. Today and every day in the Christmas season and out, let us look to the Lord Jesus the author and perfector of our faith, celebrate, and worship Him. Amen.