A Child Is Born

MOST of the things that occur in the experiences of the human race are soon forgotten. Very few events are considered of sufficient importance to be recorded on the pages of history, and nearly all of those that are recorded are seldom referred to, and are comparatively unknown by the rank and file of the people. Few indeed are the events that are remembered by the general public. Pearl Harbor is still quite vivid in the minds of most Americans, but there are millions in the United States today who wouldn’t know what was meant by a reference to the Munich Crisis of 1938.

And when we turn backward over the pages of history to the experiences of a former generation, the list of events which are still well known today narrows down even more. For example, how many now would be able, without extensive research, to name definitely and with some detail, as many as two or three news items of a thousand years ago? But when we go back to nearly two thousand years ago it is different, for then a child was born, a child who was destined to be a king, yes, a King of kings, and he was born in a manger. Here is an event that has continued to be outstanding news throughout all the centuries since it occurred; and for a few weeks each year, even in this twentieth century, it occupies more space in our newspapers and time on radio and television than does any single item of current events.

The impact of the birth of this child has changed the course of history, so much so that throughout the entire civilized world, even time is reckoned from his birthday, upon a B.C. and A.D. basis. Yet, from one standpoint, the most extraordinary thing arising out of the birth of Jesus is the fact that up until now, practically nothing in connection with the high hopes of peace and joy and life that have been centered in him has as yet been realized. Despite this, however, the whole world continues to commemorate the birth of the “Prince of Peace.”—Isa. 9:6

It is nearly two thousand years since the angel said to those shepherds on the Judean hills, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people; for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10,11) Almost twenty centuries have come and gone since that heavenly choir sang the refrain: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” Under ordinary circumstances, had claims of this sort failed of fruition for as many as fifty years, they would have been forgotten, but the angelic message of peace and goodwill is sung with as great enthusiasm today as ever.

The song of the angels is by no means forgotten. Two global wars in a generation have not silenced it, nor has the din of battle by the ever-warring factions of Christ’s professed followers caused the world to forget the angels’ song. And it is well that this is so, for the song has not lost its meaning, nor does the long-seeming delay in its fulfillment indicate that the divine purpose in the birth of Jesus has failed

On wings of peace and blessing, this song has found its way throughout the world all down the centuries, and has entered and gladdened many Christian hearts. It has cheered heavy-hearted prisoners in their dungeon cells. It has brought comfort to weary voyagers on the tossing sea of life. It has soothed the dying pilgrim when the gaunt and grasping hand of death was about to sever the slender cord and break the tender tie that bound him to loved ones here. It has shone as a glittering star of promise to light the Christian’s course through earth’s long gloom, and has pointed with a silvery shaft to a coming day of deliverance for the sin-sick world. Sweet words! Thrice blessed refrain! That angelic anthem will be the future song of all mankind, when all the earth will be clothed in endless and heavenly peace.

True, not many today of all the millions who rejoice in the spirit of Christmas, believe that the birth of Jesus will ever mean any more to the world than a date for a festive holiday, and for the giving of gifts and exchange of good wishes. Indeed, only a small minority believe that the Bible story of the birth of Jesus is really true. Most people think of it as a sort of myth, a fairy tale, suitable to interest children, but having no foundation in fact. Probably the main reason for this widespread lack of faith is the fact that the beautiful ideology of peace and goodwill that is associated with the Christmas message has for more than nineteen hundred years not seen fulfillment in universal, practical reality.

It is true, of course, that there has been no lasting peace on earth since Jesus was born. It is also true that some of the bloodiest wars that have been waged during the nineteen hundred years since he was born have been instigated by his professed followers, and fought in his name. Even as late as the First World War, professional representatives of Jesus right here in America told the boys that went to war that if they died on the battlefield they would be rewarded with a sure passport to heaven. The German boys were told the same things, during the same war. All Christians today are properly ashamed of what was done in the name of the Prince of Peace throughout the centuries of the past, but being ashamed does not alter the fact that the peace song of the angel has not yet been fulfilled.

But is there a genuine basis for faith that one day the angels’ song of peace and goodwill is to be translated into reality? Can we still believe that the Christmas story is ever to be more than a holiday theme song, despite the fact that there are bomb-shattered cities throughout much of what hitherto has been referred to as a Christian world? When half the human race is looking upon the other half as criminals, can we still believe that peace on earth is to become a reality?

Yes! is the answer to all these questions. The reason that the angelic song of peace on earth has seemingly failed to bear fruit is due to our failure to understand properly the divine purpose that is centered in Christ. One of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the birth of Jesus reads, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder.” The government shall be upon his shoulder—here is God’s viewpoint of how peace on earth would be established through Christ. (Isa. 9:6) Many of the professed followers of Jesus have had quite a different viewpoint—they have believed that the government, that is, Christ’s kingdom, was supposed to be on their shoulders, that the responsibility of establishing peace on earth and goodwill among men was theirs.

Every Christian should radiate peace and goodwill in his daily life, but it is not the business of Christians to unite with worldly governments in order to establish peace on earth; yet this is what they began to do very early in the Christian era. This inevitably led to war, and not to peace. And while we do not tolerate church-state union in the United States, many of our church leaders seem to think that somehow the churches should work through the state in an effort to safeguard the peace, thus taking the responsibility of the kingdom of Christ away from him and placing it upon the shoulders of politicians.

The government shall be upon his shoulder—let us allow this great truth to enter our hearts this Christmastime and give us assurance and hope that, in God’s due time, peace on earth will be established.

The Bible gives us a wonderful preview of the experiences of the professed followers of Christ throughout the nineteen centuries that have elapsed since the beginning of the Christian era, and in that preview we learn that the plan of God has not failed.

Jesus commissioned his disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel as a witness unto all nations. This has been done, but many misinterpreted this commission and thought Jesus wanted them to convert all nations—through preaching the Gospel, if they could; otherwise, to use coercion through the arm of the state.

Thus there has been a true Christian work in the earth, and a false work as well. Jesus foretold this, and illustrated it by his parable of the wheat and the tares. In this parable he pointed out that the wheat field would be overrun with tares, and so it has been. Jesus also explained that at the end of the age—the time in which we are now living—there would be a burning of the tares; and that then—not before—those represented by the wheat would shine forth with him in his kingdom.—Matt. 13:24-30,36-43

The tare class throughout the age have tried to establish Christ’s kingdom ahead of time through their own methods. But, according to this parable, all the great systems built up by the tare class were to be destroyed at the end of the age. In another forecast of conditions that would exist at this time, Jesus indicated that there would be very little faith left in the earth. (Luke 18:8) This is surely true of our day. And besides, the atheistic forces are making inroads into the great religious systems of the earth. But if we have faith in the promises and the prophecies of the Word of God, we will know that true Christianity cannot, and will not be destroyed; we will know that the systems that will not be able to stand up against the opposing forces are those represented by the tares.

When we view the world situation from this standpoint, and in the light of the many prophecies of the Bible pertaining to our day, it can be seen that the conditions which might seem to indicate that Christianity is failing, actually prove the contrary, for they reveal that we are at the very threshold of the long-promised kingdom of Christ.

When the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, and goodwill toward men,” they referred to God’s goodwill toward men—his goodwill, his love, that was even then being manifested in the birth of Jesus. Concerning this we read, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) This was the greatest of all gifts, and a gift that will yet benefit all the peoples of the earth.

That gift was given for the benefit of all who would believe. But the difficulty with our theology has been that we limited the opportunity of believing to this life. The purpose of Gospel preaching throughout the present age has not been to convert the world, nor to bring condemnation upon those who might not believe. It has been, rather, to attract those willing to sacrifice their all in the service of the Lord and thus prove their worthiness to live and reign with Christ during the thousand years of his kingdom, now so near. This work has gone on unknown both to the world and worldly churches, but it has been a gloriously successful work. Now it is nearly completed. Soon this little company of earnest Christians—named by Jesus the “children of the kingdom” (Matt. 13:38)—will be brought forth in the first resurrection, and will participate with Jesus in that wonderful government that will bring lasting peace to all nations.

We read in the Scriptures concerning the birth of Jesus that “when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman.” (Gal. 4:4) It is important to realize that there is a fullness of time with respect to every phase of the divine plan for human redemption and salvation. Failing to notice this, many supposed that it was God’s intention that Jesus establish peace on earth at once; but this was not the case. The first work of Christ was to die for the sins of the world. Then there came the work of selecting and preparing those who were to constitute his true church, that church which will live and reign with him “a thousand years.”—Rev. 20:6

Only after this work is complete—a work which has already required more than nineteen centuries—will it be God’s due time to establish peace on earth. But that time is near. Soon that new government, the kingdom of Christ, will manifest itself in power and great glory. Then that glorious peace song of the angels will become more than words which men have set to beautiful music. Out of appreciation for God’s great gift to men, and for the peace that he will establish, and the everlasting life that he will provide, a worldwide hallelujah chorus of praise will ascend to the Creator, and to his beloved Son—that Son whose birth the world commemorates this month.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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