This Christmas meditation was composed by David Mikesell, Elder at Staunton Grace, and presented at the home group that he facilitates on 13 December 2016. It was inspired by several things – the recent election, the book “Christmas Playlist” by Alistair Begg, and the two Prayer for Unity meetings held this month at the Augusta County Courthouse. As we celebrate this Christmas season, let us remember that God’s gift of salvation isn’t just for us, it is for everyone.
Us and Them – A Christmas Meditation
It is really easy to think in terms of “us” and “them.” Christians and non-Christians. Democrats and Republicans. Our race and their race. Americans and everyone else. UVA fans and Virginia Tech fans. In the time of the Nativity, there was an “us” and “them” attitude among the Jewish people as well. The Jews, and everyone else. The Jews were waiting for the Messiah, the one who would deliver them from foreign occupation, who would sit on the throne of David, and would usher in a time of peace.
We can see this in the song of Zechariah the priest (Luke 1:68-79). Zechariah, being a priest, knew of all the Old Testament prophesies concerning the coming of the Messiah and the restoration of Israel. In verses 71-74, it is clear that he was thinking of the promises of deliverance and restoration of Israel. His focus was on how God was going to deliver “us.”
Now let’s look at Mary’s song (Luke 1:46-55). While her background and the depth of experience was very different from Zechariah’s, and the tone of her song is different, in verses 54 and 55 we can see that her thoughts were also on how God was going to deliver “us.”
Now from what we know about their culture at that time, that focus is totally understandable. Both Zechariah and Mary knew that God had promised deliverance for Israel, and they both knew that God was now moving in ways He had never moved before. So they were thanking God for what they understood to be God’s purpose and desire – the restoration of the kingdom of Israel.
But God had bigger plans than that. We see that in the angel’s song (Luke 2:10-14). There, the angel spoke to the shepherds, telling them that the Good News wasn’t just for Israel, but for all people. Not just Jews, but for the Gentiles. And the focus wasn’t the deliverance of Israel, but that a Savior, for all people, was born.
And Simeon’s song nails it (Luke 2:29-32). He too was waiting for the restoration of Israel, but understood through the Holy Spirit that salvation was to be for all people, not just the Jews.
As our home group has studied Acts, we’ve seen how the fact that salvation was for the Gentiles as well as the Jews was a surprise (Acts 11:1-18). But it shouldn’t have been. Even in Genesis, God hints at that (Genesis 12:3). David mentions it in one of his psalms (Psalm 22:27). The prophets Malachi and Zechariah describe it (Malachi 1:11, Zechariah 2:11). And Isaiah, who gave the most prophecies regarding the Messiah, spoke of how salvation was to be for all people who put their trust in the Lord (Isaiah 49:6, 56:3-7).
So we see that in the Old Testament, God made clear that Israel had a special place in His plan, but that He wasn’t going to leave it as “us” and “them.” In God, it’s not “us” and “them,” but “His.” Paul wrote as much in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
The Good News that the angel spoke of that we celebrate this season is that Jesus came to provide the means of salvation and life for all people, not just “us.” He came too for “them.”