14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 5that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 6For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
In our study of the elements of Christmas we have come to the final one I want to look at. That is the element of Love. Many in the world want to take Christ out of Christmas, but they still center on this season as a time to express love. To truly express “Christmas love” we must first understand what it really is. We have found in our study of joy and peace that neither are outward things based in natural stimuli. They are both forces of the spirit that are within us because of the new birth. In the same way the love of Christmas is not just a natural love between people. The love represented by this season is the love of God for man expressed in the birth of the son of God.
In the verses above, Jesus is answering questions which have been posed by someone he calls a “teacher of Israel.” In verse 14 Jesus alludes to an incident in the history of Israel that this teacher, Nicodemus by name, would have been familiar with. It was an incident that occurred during the time when Israel was in the wilderness. It seems they had once again sinned against God. As judgment for their sin, poisonous snakes had come among them. Many were bitten by these snakes and many died.
God commanded Moses to do something that sounds a little strange at first. He tells them to make a bronze image of the snakes. To fully understand the significance of this we need to know that bronze represents sin. The snake represented the penalty for the sin Israel had committed. This standard that was to be lifted up was made out of their sin and was in the image of the penalty for that sin. This is significant. As the story goes, everyone who looked upon the bronze serpent lived. Even those who were bitten.
Jesus tells Nicodemus that just as this serpent was lifted up in the wilderness, so must he be lifted. In this statement Jesus is revealing that He was going to fill the same function as this bronze serpent. He was going to become the sin of mankind. He was going to take upon himself the penalty for that sin. He was going to be lifted up on a cross and all who look upon Him to receive His sacrifice as the payment for their sins would live and not die.
In the old Testament story, the people of Israel received physical life when they looked upon the bronze serpent. For those who look upon Jesus, there is something much greater available. They will not just receive physical life but Jesus tells Nicodemus that they will receive “everlasting life.” The sin offering that Jesus became opened the door for man to receive the life that would restore him to relationship with the Father. It would provide all who come to Him with a life that will last for eternity.
The gift of love that we celebrate at Christmas is not just a good feeling for the present. The gift that was manifested in that stable and laid in that manger was a gift that will stay with us for all eternity. It is the love of God the Father manifest in the flesh of a small baby. What a wonderful gift.
This week, meditate on the gift of eternal life. If Jesus had not been born it would not have been possible. However He was born and it is possible. If you have never received the gift of eternal life, you can do so today. Jesus became sin for you. He paid the price for your sin and he opened the door of relationship for you with the Father. Receive that wonderful gift today.
If you have already received it, make it available to someone else. What better gift could you give at Christmas than the one made possible by that baby so long ago. It is our privilege and our responsibility to offer this eternal gift to the whole world. That’s what God was doing at Christmas time. That is “Christmas Love.”