The story is told about a Christian missionary named Boniface (originally called Winfred) who was commissioned as a missionary to the German pagans in early 700s AD. It was late in December (appx 722 AD), after having made an arduous journey in cold and difficult weather, Boniface, and his band of brothers, came upon the village where he was going to minister the Gospel.
The missionary band came upon a large fire and gathering of the villagers. After Boniface introduced themselves they were invited to attend the ceremony. It soon became apparent that it was to involve the sacrifice of a child to the pagan god named Thor. As the bloody pagan rite began to unfold Boniface intervened saving the child’s life. Then issuing a direct challenge to the pagan sacrifice and their false gods, Boniface took hold of a broad axe and began to chop down the tree dedicated to the pagan god Thor. Having felled the tree Boniface then took a smaller tree and set it in the village and declared, “This little tree, a young child of the forest, shall be your holy tree tonight. It is the wood of peace, for your houses are built of the fir. It is the sign of an endless life, for its leaves are ever green. See how it points upward to heaven. Let this be called the tree of the Christ-child; gather about it, not in the wild wood, but in your own homes; there it will shelter no deeds of blood, but loving gifts and rites of kindness.”
The Christmas story, the story of the Gospel, and the story of all human history, conquered the little village and all its inhabitants.
The Ever Present Message of Christmas
The Christmas story is one that still holds a powerful influence in our nation and among our people. This can be seen at the local shopping center or mall where “Joy To The World” is played frequently from Thanksgiving through Christmas. It is seen in the large numbers of manger scenes set up throughout our towns and cities. It is likewise seen in the immense emphasis on the giving of gifts, symbolic of the Greater Gift that God the Father gave in the incarnation: the birth of the Messiah, Jesus who is Immanuel, “God with us.” It is seen even with the ubiquitous presence of the Christmas tree, as well as the emphasis upon celebration and joy during this festal season (for only with the bounds of the biblical worldview is there any ground for celebration and joy).
While we often give emphasis to the babe in the manger, we do not give enough emphasis to, as the late radio personality and Christian Paul Harvey used to say, is “the rest of the story.”
The rest of the story
The rest of the Christmas story begins before “the foundation of the world” and concludes at a large wedding Party, hosted by the triune God. It is a story that defines the nature of reality, the progress of history, and the relationship of all mankind toward each other and toward their Creator. It is a story of power, influence, authority, and the meaning of life. A story with a Grand Author, a multitude of ever changing characters, anti-climaxes galore, and yet all leading to a final and grand conclusion and resolution of all the different stories, within the one grand story, and for all of the players on the stage of this grand drama. It is a story that is larger than any one life but all about all of our lives: yours, mine, and everyone else. It is a story about loss, heartache, heartbreak, toil, tears, and yet the story of healing, restoration, recovery, abundant life, and proximate and ultimate salvation.
The mostly forgotten part of the story
While the manger scenes we see so often bring us quiet comfort and a sense of peace and joy, in reality the birth of the infant Messiah was the fulfillment of that declaration of conflict made at the beginning of human history. A declaration by the Creator against the one who had fallen from heaven for having incited and led a rebellion against Creator. This fallen revolutionary then sought another battlefield, the battlefield of the Garden. What the rebel and revolutionary had refused to see was that the battlefield he had chosen was under the control of its Creator. The pride of this rebel, as pride always does, kept him from seeing reality as it was and caused him to see reality as he sought to create it in his own mind. A war of two kingdoms was engaged upon the battlefield of human history. It was (and is) a fight to the end: the end of one of the kingdoms. The promise of the Creator was (and is) that the rebel would be crushed (Genesis 3:15) under the heel of the Victor, a Victor who was declared “from before the foundation of the world.”
Unlocking the entire Christmas story
God’s promises, and His faithfulness to keep His promises, is THE key to understanding the infant in the manger. Several things need to be kept in view concerning the incarnation and virgin birth of the infant child, Jesus. First, the birth of the baby attests to the dominion of God over all of history. God made His promise to send His Son from “before the foundation of the world” (1Peter 1:20). Matthew chapter one attests to the dominion of God over DNA, engagements, marriages, embryos, ethnicity, fathers, mothers, generations, and geography.
The Gospels attest to God’s dominion over the stars, kings, teachers of the law, and fisherman.
Second, the birth of the Messiah attests to God’s faithfulness to keep ALL His promises. Throughout the entirety of the Scripture God speaks through His prophets and apostles to give “a sure word.” From the Garden through the writing of the Apocalypse, He speaks over and again giving the specifics of His plan to be fulfilled (Matthew 26:56; Luke 24:44 et al).
Finally, the coming of the infant Messiah was the fulfillment of the promise to break the back of the rebel, the promise of another Kingdom that came into history to engage and enlarge the conflict that had raged in history since the beginning. It was a kingdom that descended from heaven to earth to establish the visible and comprehensive rule of the Messiah over all men and all nations by the completion of the Great Commission. The baby in the manger was the “first fruit,” a down payment upon the larger plan to bring the world under the dominion of the Messiah, man-by-man, woman-by-woman, child-by-child, nation-by-nation, as each submitted themselves to the rule of the Messiah through the regenerating grace and the work of the Holy Spirit made evident by outward submission and conformity to the commandments of the Messiah.
The worldview of Christmas is the story of and for us all. A story that encompasses everything, for all time, and in every place. It is a story much, much larger than a “babe in the manger” because it is the story that gives us the means to view all reality rightly.
Perry Coghlan is husband to Patsy for over 46 years, father of six, grandfather to 29, and great grandfather to one. He is, with his wife, the co-founder of two Christian schools in middle TN. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.