The true meaning and mystery of Christmas started long before the miracle of Christmas itself. It has been “kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith” (Romans 16:25-26 New American Standard Bible [NASB]). The meaning and mystery of Christmas goes far beyond merely rejecting consumerism and embracing loved ones, although that is a small part. The miracle of Christmas is salvation, in the form of the Lord Jesus Christ, who by a virgin and God Himself entered the world as a baby in a manger to die as a man on a cross. This miraculous mystery is also known as the gospel or good news.
The Bible explains this further in 1 Peter 1:10-12 (NASB):
As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.
The spirit of Christmas is the Holy Spirit, or the Spirit of Christ; and angels, along with prophets, longed for a glimpse of the mystery we’ve been given to gaze on.
This mystery, from the Greek word mysterion, is spoken of more than twenty times in the Bible’s New Testament (NASB). First Corinthians 2:7-9 (NASB) says the mystery actually brings us glory:
but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”
In a spectacular display of His love, God fulfilled His ancient intention of coming to earth in the flesh and allowing Himself to be crucified to pay for our sins: the just for the unjust. What a great hope and future all who love Him have!
The true meaning, mystery and miracle of Christmas is carefully guarded. Jesus spoke about it to His disciples in Mark 4:11-12 (NASB), “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.”
As part of God’s greater plan, the mysterious miracle excluded some—temporarily. Romans 11:25-26 (NASB) says, “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved.”
Paul, whom God used to write Romans, was ultimately allowed to share the mystery of salvation with everyone. In the King James Version (KJV), Paul writes, “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable (NASB: unfathomable) riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 3:8-9). In another translation difference from the KJV, the NASB omits the last phrase of this passage, to the detriment of humankind because even some Christians do not understand that Jesus Christ is also the Creator God.
Salvation is a miraculous mystery, and so is what will happen to the saved:
Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ1 Corinthians 15:51-57 NASB.
The meaning, mystery and miracle of Christmas transcends Christmas and even Easter: Jesus wins for us the final victory over sin and death which will occur at the last trumpet.
Jesus essentially is the mystery. First Timothy 3:16 says (NASB), “By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.” Jesus’ last words before He was taken up are recorded in Acts 1:7-11 (NASB):
He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”
An angel told a virgin, Mary, that God’s Holy Spirit would empower her to bear God’s son, Jesus. Angels announced Jesus’ birth to shepherds at the first Christmas. Angels announced Jesus’ Easter resurrection to His female followers. Angels proclaimed Jesus’ return to those watching His departure, and an angel will proclaim when Jesus’ mystery is finished. Revelation 10:7 says, “but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets.”
As of this writing, the mystery of salvation is still being offered, but we don’t know for how long, or when Jesus will return. We are advised how to behave until He comes back, however. The 1 Peter 1 (NASB) passage above concludes, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
The next 8 verses give us even more instruction (NASB):
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
Life is fleeting and the end of the mystery is near. Before we’re plunged into eternity, we must seize the miracle of salvation or live meaningful lives as saved people while there is time.
At the first Christmas an angel proclaimed to shepherds, considered low-class members of that time’s society, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 1:10-11 NASB). Jesus Christ came to bring good news of great joy for all people. He came for our glory. He came for His. He came to effect the mystery of salvation which God planned long ages ago.
As 1 Corinthians 15 says above, when the last trumpet sounds we will be changed in a moment. There will be no time for anything else because there will no longer be time. “Therefore, my beloved brethren,” Paul advises in the final verse of that passage, “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB (New American Standard Bible) Copyright by The Lockman Foundation http://www.lockman.org