By Dr. Stanley Watson/Syndicated columnist
The Picayune Item
PICAYUNE — Christmas is, without doubt the world's greatest celebration. I checked this out a few years ago: In a world population of 5.5 billion, 1.8 billion Christians will be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Add to these the many from other faiths such as the Jews who join the festivities. and the result is the world's greatest annual event. In this nation 85% of our citizens identify themselves as Christians - that's 241 million out of a population of 281 million people.
One of the pleasures of Christmas is music. Such carols as “Joy to the World,” “Silent Night,” and Handel's “Messiah” rejoice that Christ was born. The tradition of celebrating great events goes back to the time when Moses sang about the deliverance of his people from slavery in Egypt. When Mary was told by the Angel Gabriel that she was to be the mother of the Messiah, she expressed her joy in song. The angel choir announced the birth of the Messiah to the shepherds on the hill, rejoicing and praising God in these words, "Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth, good will toward men."
Stories are another one of the joys of the Season. We experience again the spirit of Christmas through such classics as Dickens' “Christmas Carol” and Jimmy Stewart's performance in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Dickens reminds us that it is possible for a selfish, mean spirited person to change for the better and Jimmy Stewart tells us that our influence is much greater than we realize. These and a multitude of other stories are reflections of the wonderful life that came into the world in the little town of Bethlehem in Judea.
We understand that the reason for Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ and our Christmas stories simply take the lessons that Jesus taught and illustrate how they work in daily life.
Take the virtue of generosity for instance. Santa Claus, as you know, is a generous old fellow who drives a sleigh powered by a team of eight little reindeers. He manages to deliver gifts to the homes of good children everywhere on Christmas night. And here's something even more unusual- the reindeers fly. And if that isn't enough, when a Christmas night is foggy, the lead reindeer, named Rudolph, lights the way with his red nose. The Christmas songs and stories are pleasant but they are only the wrappings of the gift of God to mankind.
The New Testament, along with the testimony of Bible historians, tells the real story of God's gift - Jesus Christ. The Scriptural account of the life of Jesus is as accurate as the records of any other person in history. Pontius Pilate, the Roman official who condemned Christ to death, made a full report to Tiberius Caesar that is in agreement with the account that is found in the gospels. Add to these accounts the many prophecies of the Messiah in the Old Testament-prophecies are amazingly clear. In his book, "Messiah", Dr. James Kennedy reports that there are 333 prophesies that deal with the coming Messiah.
Prophecies as a rule are vague by nature, however the prophecies about Jesus are very specific. Here are a few of the 456 details which were fulfilled by Jesus during his lifetime:
He was a descendent of Abraham through the house of King David.
A forerunner would announce his coming.
He would be born in Bethlehem of Judea, not Bethlehem of Israel.
He would be worshipped by wise men giving gifts.
Bethlehem would suffer a massacre of infants after the king heard of Jesus' birth.
He would be called a Nazarene.
In the fifty-third chapter of his book, the prophet Isaiah describes the purpose and nature of Jesus' crucifixion in excruciating detail.
Many scholars and world leaders, including those who did not view him as the Son of God, agree that Jesus was the greatest and most unique human being who ever lived.
Pilate called him "the man without fault".
Napoleon called him "the Emperor of love".
The great German critic, David Friedrich Strauss called him "the highest model of religion".
John Stuart Mill, considered by many to have been the most intelligent man who ever lived, called Jesus, "the guide of humanity".
But the Scriptures describe him as being much more — a member of the Godhead, the Creator of the Universe, who came into the world as a human being, who lived a perfect life and died for the sins of the world.
Jesus identified himself as eternal. He said, "Before Abraham was, I am. (John 8:58)
He explained, "My Father worketh hitherto and I work. (John 5:17)
He claimed, "I and my Father are one.(John 10:30)
If you have any doubts about the nature and purpose of the Savior who was born that night in Bethlehem, the Scripture suggests a way that you can find out for yourself. Go to the source - pray to Him, ask Him, listen as he speaks to your heart and trust the answer you will receive. "For whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. " Romans 10:13
The songs and stories of Christmas create a joyous atmosphere but when we accept the gift of God, Jesus Christ, we are given life that, by its very nature, is happy and everlasting.