The Birth of Christ

The Son of God is born in this world, but He finds no place here. The world is at home, or at least by its resources it finds a place in the inn; it becomes a kind of measure of man's place in and reception by the world; the Son of God finds none save in the manger. Is it for nothing that the Holy Ghost records this circumstance? No; there is no room for God, and that which is of God, in this world. So much the more perfect, therefore, is the love that brought Him down to earth. But He began in a manger and ended on the cross, and along the way had not where to lay His head.

The Son of God - a child partaking in all the weakness and all the circumstances of human life, thus manifested - appears in the world.

But if God comes into this world, and if a manger receives Him in the nature He has taken in grace, the angels are occupied with the event on which depends the fate of the whole universe, and the accomplishment of all the counsels of God; for He has chosen weak things to confound things that are mighty. This poor Infant is the object of all the counsels of God, the Upholder and Heir of the whole creation, the Saviour of all who shall inherit glory and eternal life.

Some poor men who were faithfully performing their toilsome labours, afar from the restless activity of an ambitious and sinful world, receive the first tidings of the Lord's presence on earth. The God of Israel did not seek for the great among His people, but had respect to the poor of the flock. Two things here present themselves. The angel who comes to the shepherds of Judea announces to them the fulfilment of the promises of God to Israel. The choir of angels celebrate in their heavenly chorus of praise all the real import of this wondrous event. "Unto you," says the heavenly messenger who visits the poor shepherds, "is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." This was proclaiming good tidings to them and to all the people.

But in the birth of the Son of man, God manifest in the flesh, the accomplishment of the incarnation had far deeper importance than this. The fact that this poor Infant was there, disallowed and left (humanly speaking) to His fate by the world, was (as understood by the heavenly intelligences, the multitude of the heavenly hosts, whose praises resounded at the angel's message to the shepherds) "Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good pleasure [of God] in men." These few words embrace such widely-extended thoughts, that it is difficult to speak suitably of them in a work like this; but some remarks are necessary. First, it is deeply blessed to see that the thought of Jesus excludes all that could oppress the heart in the scene which surrounded His presence on earth. Sin, alas! was there. It was manifested by the position in which this wondrous Infant was found. But if sin had placed Him there, grace had placed Him there. Grace superabounds; and in thinking of Him blessing, grace, the mind of God respecting sin, that which God is, as manifested by the presence of Christ, absorb the mind and possess the heart, and are the heart's true relief in a world like this. We see grace alone; and sin does but magnify the fulness, the sovereignty, the perfection of that grace. God, in His glorious dealings, blots out the sin with respect to which He acts, and which He thus exhibits in all its deformity; but there is that which "much more aboundeth." Jesus, come in grace, fills the heart. It is the same thing in all the details of Christian life. It is the true source of moral power, of sanctification, and of joy.

We see next that there are three things brought out by the presence of Jesus born as a child on the earth. First, glory to God in the highest. The love of God, His wisdom, His power, not in creating a universe out of nothing, but in rising above the evil, and turning the effect of all the enemy's power into an occasion of showing that this power was only impotence and folly in presence of that which may be called "the weakness of God," the fulfilment of His eternal counsels, the perfection of His ways where evil had come in, the manifestation of Himself amidst the evil in such a manner as to glorify Himself before the angels; in a word, God had so manifested Himself by the birth of Jesus that the hosts of heaven, long familiar with His power, could raise their chorus, "Glory to God in the highest"; and every voice unites in sounding forth those praises. What love like this! and God is love. What a purely divine thought, that God has become man!! What supremacy of good over evil! What wisdom in drawing nigh to the heart of man and the heart of man back to Him! What fitness in addressing man! What maintenance of the holiness of God! What nearness to the heart of man, what participation in His wants, what experience of His condition! But beyond all, God above the evil in grace, and in that grace visiting this defiled world to make Himself known as He had never yet been known.

The second effect of the presence of Him who manifested God on the earth is that peace should be there. Rejected, His name should be an occasion of strife; but the heavenly choir are occupied with the fact of His presence, and with the result, when fully produced, of the consequences, wrapped up in the person of Him who was there (looked at in their proper fruits), and they celebrate these consequences. Manifested evil should disappear, His holy rule should banish all enmity and violence. Jesus, mighty in love, should reign, and impart the character in which He had come to the whole scene that should surround Him in the world He came into, that it might be according to His heart who took delight therein. (Prov. 8:31.) (See, as regards a smaller scale, Psalm 85:10-11.)

The means of this redemption, the destruction of Satan's power, the reconciliation of man by faith, and of all things in heaven and earth with God, are not here pointed out. Everything depended on the person and presence of Him who is born. All was wrapped up in Him. The state of blessing was born in the birth of that Child.

Presented to the responsibility of man, man is unable to profit by it, and all fails. His position thereby becomes only so much the worse. But, grace and blessing being attached to the person of Him just born, all their consequences necessarily flow forth. After all, it was the intervention of God accomplishing the counsel of His love, the settled purpose of His good pleasure. And Jesus once there, the consequences could not fail; whatever interruption there might be to their fulfilment, Jesus was their surety. He was come into the world. He contained in His person, He was the expression of, all these consequences. The presence of the Son of God in the midst of sinners said to all spiritual intelligence, "Peace on the earth."

The third thing was the good pleasure - the affection of God in men. Nothing more simple, since Jesus was a man. He had not taken hold of angels. It was a glorious testimony that the affection, the good pleasure, of God was centred in this poor race, now afar from Him, but in which He was pleased to accomplish all His glorious counsels. So John 1, "the life was the light of men."

In a word, it was the power of God present in grace in the person of the Son of God taking part in the nature, and interesting Himself in the lot, of a being who had departed from Him, and making him the sphere of the accomplishment of all His counsels, and of the manifestation of His grace and His nature to all His creatures. What a position for man! for it is indeed in man that all this is accomplished. The whole universe was to learn in man, and in what God therein was for man, that which God was in Himself, and the fruits of all His glorious counsels, as well as its complete rest in His presence, according to His nature of love. All this was implied in the birth of that Child of whom the world took no notice. Natural and marvellous subject of praise to the holy inhabitants of heaven, unto whom God had made it known! It was glory to God in the highest. J. N. Darby.