THE LORD'S BIRTHDAY
By John Aldworth
Col. 1:18 And He is the Head of the body the church, Who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence.
It’s that time of year again when the world goes mad. Newspapers call it the ‘silly season’, police strive to keep drunk drivers off the road and the tills of rank commercialism ring louder than sleigh bells ever could. Decorated trees and presents from Satan Claus lend a tinsel pagan presence and on the 25th church bells will ring to say that the 25th supposedly is the birthday of Jesus Christ. Of course, it isn’t. December 25th is Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, the birthday of the sun, held anciently in mid-winter to mark the beginning of the return of longer days.
The Bible makes clear that actually Jesus Christ was born much earlier to coincide with the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, celebrated this year, for example, in Jerusalem from September 27 to October 4. Jesus was born in the Northern Hemisphere autumn. You don’t get shepherds sleeping with their flocks in fields in late December; there can be a foot or more of snow. By the way, He wasn’t born in a lowly cattle shed, nor were donkeys, sheep or cows present. He was laid in a manger, the outdoor stone used to feed the asses of visitors. You see, Mary and Joseph were out in the street, everybody else was indoors. There was no room at the inn; Jesus was an outcast at his birth.
Yet He came to ‘tabernacle’ with men, to be Immanuel, ‘God with us” to his Israelite people. The Apostle John writes (John 1:14) that the ‘… the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.’ The phrase ‘dwelt among us’ actually translates the word tabernacle, meaning to dwell in a tent. And begotten means being fathered – by God.
So how did Jesus tabernacle with his people? Track what He did to this end in John chapter 7. Vs. 2 tells us the ‘Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand’, yet Jesus refused to go up to the feast openly as his unbelieving step brothers urged Him to do (vss. 3-9). Later, however, He went up in secret (vs. 10) and then ‘in the midst of the feast Jesus went … into the temple and taught’ (vs. 14). His teaching set off a fierce debate with the disbelieving Jews about whether his doctrine was true and whether He really was the Christ. Jesus accuses them of trying to kill Him and the showdown culminates in their seeking to ‘take Him’ (vs. 30). Then in vss. 37-39 we read:
In the last day, that great day of the feast (of tabernacles), Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake He of the Spirit which they that believe on Him should receive, for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified).
Jesus then in his earthly ministry to Israel was to tabernacle with his people by:
- teaching them the truth about Himself.
- By Himself being their living water, ‘the water of life’ (John 4: 10, 7:38, Rev. 22:17). As Isaiah 12:3 put it, ‘Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation’.
Sadly the Jewish people at this time did not receive his teaching nor did they come unto Him to receive ‘the water of life’. Indeed, the nation Israel will only do so later when she is ‘born again’ in her ‘regeneration” (Matt. 19:28 and Acts 3:19-21). And that will be her birthday.
In the light of this rejection by his people which continued even after his ascension perhaps it is no wonder that neither God, scripture nor Jesus Himself invites anyone to celebrate his natural birthday. Carefully read Luke 1:31-33 where Mary is foretold about Jesus’ birth:
Thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a son and shalt call his name Jesus (meaning ‘Saviour’). He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of his father David. And He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever.
It does not say: ‘And they shall celebrate his (natural) birthday for ever’. God never intended that anybody should. Fact is that nowhere in scripture is anyone commanded to celebrate the Lord’s birth in Bethlehem.
However, our Lord did have another birthday and this is one that God not only wants us to celebrate but to be a part of forever. It is found in Col. 1:15 and 18 where, speaking of Christ in glory, it says that He is:
… the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.
And He is the head of the body, the church, Who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence.
Notice that the word firstborn occurs twice in these verses. It really does mean that Christ was born a second time. You see, Christ Jesus our Lord – that is Jesus as He really is to us today – was not born at Bethlehem. He is a new creature. In his death He nailed our ‘old man’, the fallen Adamic nature, in fact all the old creation, to the cross. Then in his resurrection He was born a new creature, the first such and thus became the firstborn of the new creation.
Yes, Jesus Christ was once ‘made in the likeness of sinful flesh’ to bear our sin and die for it. But then He had a second birthday. Rom. 1:3:4 explains that he was:
…made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and (then) declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.
It may seem strange that the Lord had the birthday he wants you and I remember in resurrection but remember this birthday was and still is his glorification. Today, far from being the babe born at Bethlehem, He is the Lord of all glory. It is in his glory that He will appear at his appearing (Col. 3:3-4) and we grace-saved believers with Him.
In this new creation there is no sin; there is no ‘flesh’ (the sin-prone natural condition we all find ourselves born into as members of the old and fallen creation). Consequently, in this holy, spiritual and new realm of creation, there is no ‘falling short of the glory of God’. Rather, we shall ‘appear with Him in glory’.
And the good news doesn’t end there. This birthday of Christ Jesus as the firstborn of the new creation is also our birthday. Titus 3:5 explains:
Not by works of righteousness we have done but according to his mercy He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.
Regeneration means being born again and in this case being born again into the new creation. ‘Renewing of the Holy Ghost’ means being quickened or made alive with Spirit of Christ as He is now, the Head and Firstborn of the new creation.
In this way Christ’s second birthday becomes his birthday in us. As Col. 1:27 says:
To whom (the saints) God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery which is Christ in you the hope of glory, whom we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.
Christ’s birthday in glory – the only one He wants us to remember - not only makes us part of the New Creation but also makes us perfect in Him – if, and only if, we are willing to be fully taught about this process by God’s appointed Apostle of the Mystery and of the New Creation, Paul.