Winter 1988

Reformed Quarterly Volume 7, Issue 4

Christmas is coming, and you are beginning to reflect on it. You remember family and friends, days of hectic celebration and quiet, intimate conversations, candlelight church services and Sunday School Christmas programs. As I reflect on Christmas and what it means, I’m reminded of when my wife Marilyn was bedridden with an illness and how church members helped us in a variety of ways. They brought in meals, helped clean the house, and did innumerable other jobs.

But they did more than take care of household chores; they visited Marilyn regularly. She enjoyed talking with Christian friends during the weeks she spent in bed.

Our Christian friends also prayed for her recovery and for our strength during this difficult time in our lives. Their acts of kindness and love were overwhelming.

I couldn’t think of ways to thank them, let alone repay them for all the wonderful and thoughtful deeds. Even now, eight years later, I remember how marvelous those children of God were to us. I am amazed and grateful.

Although I am astonished by such benevolence, it pales in comparison to what God has done for us. No matter how many splendid things may happen to us, they cannot compare to what God has done in making Himself known. God became man for the sake of His people.


The first chapter of John’s gospel illustrates how God makes Himself known in the second person of the Trinity:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning….The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1: 1,2,14 NIV)

John’s words are Christmas words. They tell us that when Jesus, who is the Word of God, became man He showed us something about who God is. He did not need to do this; He did it totally for our good. God’s gracious character is evident in the Incarnation by His taking upon Himself human flesh. He who is the creator and giver of life took upon Himself the form of the creature.

In John 1:14 we are told that those who saw Jesus found Him full of grace and truth. When we see Jesus, we see the glory of the one and only Son of God.

During His life, Christ demonstrated God’s grace and truth as well as many other features. John 14:9-11 tells us how Jesus, the Son, makes the Father known:

Jesus answered, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me, has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing His work. Believe in me when I say that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”

Jesus says to Philip and to all of us that by His actions, statements, and personality He is showing us who God is. Jesus is God as well as man. As we come to know more about Jesus Christ, we come to know more about God.

What about those of us who have never seen Jesus? Do we have the same information as Philip? Yes, we do. Although Jesus is not here any longer, we have a trustworthy record of who Jesus is in the Bible. So the Word of God becomes important for us. It is our access to information about Jesus’ identity and, hence, God’s identity.

God makes Himself known in numerous ways. The Incarnation is the pinnacle of His self-revelation to us. Any one of the means by which God makes Himself known would be sufficient to hold everyone accountable for knowing and acknowledging Him. God reveals Himself because He is a kind and gracious God. He even sends the Holy Spirit to work in us and confirm His disclosure of His character.

The stupendous variety of ways in which God makes Himself known can be likened to our Christmas feasts. When the appetizer is over, we have all had enough to eat. By the time we finish the main course, we are completely stuffed. Then comes dessert. So it is with the ways in which God makes Himself known. He keeps adding sufficient way after sufficient way, culminating in the Incarnation.


If God so clearly makes Himself known, why do so many miss this point? Why do so few take advantage of His revelation? God takes the initiative, and many still refuse to acknowledge Him.

Perhaps we miss God’s revelation for the same reasons that we miss other things. Frequently I look for something and can’t find it. I keep searching, and then my wife comes along and points it out. Perhaps I looked in the wrong place or failed to observe obvious clues.

We miss things in God’s revelation for the same reasons. We look but are unable to separate the significant from the irrelevant. The unbelieving world is surely like this. All of God’s revelation is there for them to see, but they avoid recognizing and acknowledging it.

We Christians frequently miss what God is showing us because we look at the wrong things in God’s revelation. We fail to pay attention to what is crucial, namely, God’s eternal power and Godhead.

At Christmas, people are particularly prone to this sort of error. We find the story of Jesus’ birth to be quaint. It is a part of our traditional celebration. It makes us feel warm and sentimental. But we must remember the reason for Christmas. We celebrate a stupendous event. God became man. And in so doing, He revealed His grace and truth. God’s glory and praise, not our comfort, ought to be the focus of our Christmas celebration.

Anyone who has tried to teach children the meaning of Christmas knows what I’m talking about. We emphasize that Christmas is about the marvelous gift of God. Giving, not receiving, should be the center of celebration. But children often fail to see Christmas as a time for giving. Instead they see Christmas as the time to get lots of presents. We adults are not immune to the same error. We prefer to concentrate wrongly on receiving and fail to focus properly on giving.

Second, we can miss what God is saying to us because we don’t pay attention to Him. We focus on something else. For example, I may sit down to talk with my wife, but there is a magazine beside me. I don’t resist reading. I may seem to be listening, but what I’m really doing is reading the magazine.

The same thing can happen in looking at God’s revelation. We know that God is telling us something about Himself, but we don’t pay very close attention, and the point does not register with us. After hearing the story of Jesus’ birth many times over, do you see the point? Do you celebrate Christmas because Jesus became man and in so doing showed us that God is love?

Third, we can miss what God is saying to us because there are some things that we simply don’t want to learn. They make us uncomfortable. We don’t like to be confronted with our sin. Therefore, we avoid absorbing what God tells us about His righteousness. Or we may acknowledge them one time and fail to do so the next time. And the Incarnation — the Christmas story — is about God’s righteousness. The reason why Jesus became man was to bear man’s sin. The sin of God’s people, our sin, is at the heart of the Christmas message. Our rejoicing should be fueled by repentance for sin and faith in the saving Son of God.

But we can’t attribute our failures to comprehend God’s revelation to a fault in the revelation. The fault is not God’s; it is ours. The revelation is sufficient and clear. Our false perceptions or refusal to perceive causes us to misunderstand God’s revelation. We choose to avoid understanding what God is telling us about himself. It is our perversity, not God’s failure, that causes us to misunderstand God’s revelation.

Now is a good time for Christians to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. God became man and in so doing showed Himself to be full of grace and truth. Jesus was born of Mary to suffer under Pilate — all for our sakes, to redeem His people for their sin. Rejoice not simply in the gathering of friends and relatives, along with other festive activities, but also in the fact that God in the clearest way has shown you what He is like. A gracious God who has saved His people from sin and recorded it in His book of truth. Celebrate God’s grace, rejoice in His grace, and revel in His love. “The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 NIV).

This article is excerpted from the book The God We Love and Serve by Curry. It is to be published by Great Commissions Publications in July, 1989.