Edwin V. Hayden wrote this Christmas editorial 50 years ago.
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God Sent His Son
Dec. 20, 1970; p. 10
How remarkable is the biography of God’s Son! . . .
God’s messengers of old spoke of a maiden conceiving, of a son being born, and of Bethlehem as the place from which a timeless ruler would come. The heart of a man named Joseph provided Matthew with the key to the mystery. . . . The explanation in Matthew 1 combines Joseph’s experience with Isaiah’s prophecy. In chapter 2, it brings Micah’s prophecy to bear on the experience of noblemen who came in contact with a murderous monarch in their search for an infant King.
The heart of Mary provided Luke with information, from heaven’s first announcement of the forthcoming Son to the events of the baby’s first day and a twelve-year-old boy’s first venture beyond parental care. The Holy Spirit found in Dr. Luke the person to tell the story with a simple beauty matching its marvelous power.
[His birth] was the then-unknown climax in the reign of Caesar Augustus and Governor Quirinius. Henceforth the births and deaths of men would be dated in relation to this event! The birthplace is named in prophecy and record. Men may quarrel over the boundaries of Judea, but they find their way to Bethlehem in celebration of that birth. The baby’s parentage is told carefully and simply, to the comfort of those who are willing to believe that God sent His Son.
‘PAUL’S MASTERFUL SUMMARY’
This plainly is the point in Paul’s masterful summary written to the Galatians. As if to recall, confirm, and establish what was already well known by those who had received the gospel, the apostle laid down this landmark from which to extend every survey of Christian teaching: “When the fulness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:4, 5; American Standard Version). Implicit in this grand declaration is all that the prophets have written of Messiah’s coming; all that Matthew and Luke have recorded of His birth; and all that John has said of the only begotten Son.
“The fulness of the time” adapts eternity to man’s time-bound status. As the changeless “I AM,” God can see all time compressed into one thin transparency. But time exists in human experience, and the times of Moses, David, and Isaiah; of Daniel and Cyrus; and of Caesar Augustus, were all used to prepare the human scene for the coming of God’s Son.
“God sent forth his Son!” This declares what the whole Bible develops—that the initiative in salvation is divine; that Christianity is delivered, rather than developed; that the eternal Word became flesh; and that in this embodiment He came as the only begotten of the Father.
He was “born of a woman.” Thus briefly is presented the fact to which Matthew and Luke gave attention in their opening chapters. Without argument or embellishment is the truth that God’s Son was virgin-born.
He was born and He lived “under the law.” He bore with total grace the system of commands and restrictions that Peter described as an unbearable yoke (Acts 15:10). He discerned between God-given law and man-made tradition, and dealt with each according to its merits. Ultimately in fulfillment of the law He lifted from the shoulders of all mankind the moral burden they could not bear.
This is Paul’s evident message, and perhaps his sole intent, in this passage to the Galatians. May we go beyond that intent, and suggest that our Lord was born under other laws also?
‘BORN UNDER OTHER LAWS’
The law of Rome rested heavily upon Him and those among whom He dwelt. It set the circumstances of His birth. It collected taxes of money and manpower, creating an atmosphere of tense rebellion in which violence was always near to eruption. And at Calvary it condoned and executed His murder. Men who are restive under oppression may remember that Christ was born under this law.
He was born, too, under the physical law of mortal flesh, to know hunger and weakness, toil and pain; to bleed when He was hurt, and, in what should have been the prime of young manhood, to die in an agony of thirst. This aspect of our Lord’s self-accepted humanity becomes more meaningful to each of us as the years take their toll and health problems become a burden in us and our friends. In sending His Son, God shared even this!
His sharing was not mere passive endurance, though! His coming was with purpose, “that he might redeem them that were under the law.” He leads the way out! By example He shows the way of obedience to the law; by sacrifice He provides the way of cleansing under the law; and by His resurrection He establishes triumph over the law. That triumph applies as much to burdensome political and physical laws as to the laws that were written on tables of stone. “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
The full circle of God’s matchless giving is shown in a final phrase, “that we might receive the adoption of sons.” God’s only Son came to live as a man on earth, that He might bring many sons to live with God in heaven! Until then, His biography is not complete!
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Image: Adoration by the Shepherds, a painting by Bronzino (1503-72), housed in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest; courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.