And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Saviour of the world. — 1 John 4: 14
Bible reading1: 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. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. — Isaiah 9: 6–7
Bible reading 2: But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. — Galatians 4: 4–7
We rejoice over the birth of Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, only a few people recognized that He was the Saviour, the Redeemer. He was born in a stable and was laid into a manger. How was anyone supposed to have recognized Him as the Saviour of the world then?
The day came when His parents, Mary and Joseph, brought Him into the temple. In the outer court there were people from all around the world, and right in the middle of them all was this young couple with a newly born baby. No one was able to understand that this little Child of poor parents could be the Son of God.
A certain man, Simeon, saw the Child and immediately recognized that this was the Saviour (Luke 2: 30). What was the reason for this? He was God-fearing and believed in the promise of God, namely that he would “not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2: 26).
Recognizing the Lord
This shows that we must have faith to be able to recognize the Lord. Certainly, people would rather have it otherwise. They would prefer to have proof first. First God is to prove that He exists, and only then will they be prepared to believe. Or else, God must first perform a miracle in order for them to believe. But true faith does not come about through proof or miracles, but rather through the word of God. It is only once we believe in God that we can recognize the Saviour.
Reigning over the hearts
The Saviour came into the world but was not accepted by mankind. Most people had a different notion of redemption. The prophets had promised a Saviour who would establish His kingdom in Israel, a kingdom that would never end. For them it was clear that He would come as the King of the Jews and make Israel into a mighty nation with a king of their own once again. However, Jesus did not come in order to reign over Israel. He wanted to rule over the hearts of mankind.
At times people think that if there really was a God He would establish order here on earth and solve all of society’s problems. But God does not want to rule here on earth. He wants to rule in our hearts.
Recognizing the Redeemer
When Jesus began His work of redemption, people did not recognize it. There was nothing extraordinary about Jesus’ appearing, be it at His birth or later. His contemporaries reduced Him to His insignificant background, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1: 46), Later, some finally realized the difference, “for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7: 29). The Father had sent Jesus to proclaim Him to mankind.
Through baptism with water and the Holy Spirit, Jesus has begun His work of redemption upon us. Do we recognize that this is the start of our redemption? The sacraments imparted to us through the Apostles are also part of this redemption. When we look at the Apostles we see that they are normal people. In fact, they are even sinners! We cannot link the work of the Apostles to any sort of extraordinary abilities on their part. But if we listen to them and believe, we can recognize the authority of the Apostle ministry: they work in the commission of Jesus Christ and are His ambassadors.
Those who recognize this can confirm what our Bible text says, “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as the Saviour of the world.” Our Christmas joy results from having recognized the Saviour and having experienced Him in His work. Let us spread this joy to the whole world so that everyone may share in it. “For there is born to you this day … a Saviour!” (Luke 2: 10–11).
* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for divine service held on Christmas Day, 25 December 2015 at Midrand Congregation.