There Is Born a Saviour

Christmas Sermon by E. L. Powell

Now when Jesus was bom in Bethlehem of Judaea. — Matt. 2: 1.

 

CHRISTMAS! It is the one unique birthday of
recorded time. Unique as respects the babe who
was born on that first Christmas Day in the long ago.
*’Now when Jesus was bom in Bethlehem of Judaea”
there was brought into the world of humanity a child
of flesh and blood — born of woman — crying, smiling,
hungry, human, and yet unlike and different from any
baby in the manner of His coming, who has for the
first time opened His wondering eyes on this strange
earth of ours.

Unique was this wonderful babe in the manner of
His coming, but yet completely human, *^for both he
that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are of
one [one nature], for which cause he is not ashamed
to call them brethren. ‘ ‘ Mystery of mysteries ! Having
a unique mission, a mission of redemption, related to
the ages before His birth, and to all subsequent races
of mankind, a mission which was held within the
eternal purposes of God from the beginning, ante-
dating the song of the morning stars or the breaking
of the first morning of time, why should it be thought
a thing incredible that without intermediary human
agency this babe should have come into our human
environment by the immediate touch and power of

God – Such a child with such a mission, ”the desire

of all nations,” the theme of prophet and poet who
interpreted the world’s need of just such a child
coming with just such marks of uniqueness at just
such a time in the history of the world — such a child,
I say, could not have come otherwise, and at the same
time have met the requirements of faith or imagina-
tion. God’s miracles delight us. They do not stagger
or distress our faith.

We can not explain the mystery of dawn as it
brightens into day. We simply rejoice in the glory.
”Unto us is born a child … his name shall be called
Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the Prince of
Peace.” Why argue about the dawn?

”Here hath been dawning another blue day.
Think, wilt thou let it slip useless away?
Out of eternity this new day was born;
Into eternity it soon will return.”

What human agency is back of the dawn? Whence
does it come? In what laboratory is light manufac-
tured? With what pencil does the breaking day trans-
form and transfigure the darkened earth, which but
a moment ago was chill and cold under the mantle of
dewy night? The virgin birth! It is the birth of
the dawn. Explain it? Certainly not. Demonstrate
it in intellectual terms and syllogisms? Impossible.
Believe it and rejoice in it as you accept and rejoice
in the dawn. ^’Behold, the virgin shall be with child,
and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his
name Immanuel; which is, being interpreted, God
with us.” How simple, almost naive, is the narrative!
Wonderful, however, in the same way as in the older
narrative, when ‘ ‘ God said, Let there be light, and light
was.” So I am trying to say that the birth of Jesus
in Bethlehem was unique, wonderful and yet human,

friendly, intimate and familiar as the birth of all
babies who have made the living, sorrowing, rejoicing,
sinning, hoping generations of mankind. Could this
Bethlehem baby have called Himself the Son of man,
the child of the race, if His birth had been marked
by the limited and provincial characteristics of the
ordinary, the usual, the local, the purely natural course
of human arrivals? Born of a virgin, immediately
g&erated by God, miraculous, if you please, and not
less miraculously than matter. He becomes the child of
humanity, and, like the sun and stars, belongs to man-
kind.

Our Christianity is supernatural, or it must take
its place in the intellectual systems and philosophies
of mankind. But while the supernatural can not be
explained and understood by reason, it is none the
less reasonable, and must be the subject-matter of
reason. Science itself is nothing more than human
reason dealing with the supernatural in objective
nature. The first and last word of science, whatever
its theories, hypotheses and reasoned systems, is God.
”In the beginning — God.” Science is but the effort of
human reason to tell us how God is working, and has
uniformly worked, in the continuous creation of the
universe, and natural law is nothing more than God’s
way of doing things. Jesus is the great exception, a
break in the uniformity of the working of the natural
law of generation and birth. There is here no contra-
vention or contradiction of law. It is an exception,
a departure from God’s usual way, but no violation or
contradiction of the usual, unless we shall say that
there is no room in God’s universe for the exceptional,
and that God is imprisoned by the methods and proc-
esses of His own creation.

 

But pardon this brief excursion into the domain of
science and theology. This is a Christmas sermon.
“We want to hear the celestial choir chanting the
“Gloria in Excelsis”; we want to hear the angelic
trumpets startling the simple Bethlehem shepherds
with such music as had never rolled over earth’s hills,
nor brought human hearts to such a glow of vibrant
happiness. ‘^Behold, I bring you good tidings of great
joy/’ said the tall angel, as prelude and introduction
to the message of the whole heavenly host: ^’Unto you
is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is
Christ the Lord.” Heaven’s full and complete message
and music, the real Christmas music, is that uttered
by the full chorus, the completion, complement and ful-
fillment of the tall angel’s prelude. The one angel
announces the text: “Behold, I bring you good tidings
of great joy.” The full chorus preaches the sermon:
”Unto you is born this day in the city of David a
Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.”

I. It is good tidings indeed to have been told that
this long-looked-for Messiah had actually come. Hope
long deferred attains its fruition. ”Unto you is born.”
We are not so much concerned as to the circumstances
or manner of His coming. Has He been born? It is
the historic Christ whose arrival the angels proclaim.
He is actual. You can touch His baby hands. He is
objective flesh and blood. “Art thou he that should
come?” asks the doubting prophet. Jesus says: “Go
show John the things you have seen.” The actual
Christ doing the very things which long ago the
prophets had said the Messiah would do. The dream
has come true. See the Christ stand! No fancy, no
disembodied or discarnate ideal, no depersonalized sys-
tem of philosophy, no cold metaphysical abstraction.

 

On the contrary, warm flesh and blood — concrete, ob-
jective, personal — who will presently begin ”to do and
to teach,” and to so wondrously influence the select
company of His apostles that one of them shall say,
speaking for the others and for those who subsequently
should believe in Him through their teaching: ^’Thou
art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Chris-
tianity is based on solid, substantial fact — a divinely
human personality, who lived, taught, wrought, suf-
fered, died, was buried and rose again, and thenceforth
governing, guiding, redeeming human life, as the
ascended spiritual Christ ^^whom not having seen we
love.” Christmas gets us away from the speculative
in our religion, and brings us down to earth where
we live and sin and suffer — the only place where a real
Saviour can find His task, and where an abstract Christ
is wholly without a mission.

II. Another note of joy in this full Christmas music
is the announcement that this Christ who has actually
come is contemporaneous, ”Unto us is born this day
in the city of David.” This Christ of ours is of even
date. It is always in the ministry of Jesus this day,
this city, this generation. He has been the contemporary
of all ages and generations, else redemption could not
have continued longer or further than His personal
ministry in the flesh. ”Before Abraham was I am.”
His historic birth in terms of time was the monumental
and historic expression of His continuous redemptive
presence through the ages. “He loved me and gave
himself for me,” this day, this man, this Saul of
Tarsus, this house of Zaccheus in which he must abide,
unto you and me, unto our age and day with its pe-
culiar problems of peace and war, with its confused
democracy and yet near attainment, how contempora-

neons the announcement : ” Unto you is born this day in
the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord”

III. The whole gamut is swept, however, in the
climacteric word “Saviour” It matters not, save for
academic and intellectual considerations, that the
Christ-child has come, that He is the Messiah long
looked for and passionately desired, that He has been
recognized by His own conntrymen as none other than
the one of whom ” Moses in the law and the prophets
did write”; so much as that the Christ identified by
all the marks of type and prophecy has come to a
continuous ministry of redemption, “We must hear the
sustaining and undergirding word in this mighty
anthem: ”Unto yon is born this day in the city of
David a Saviour.” That last word describes the cir-
cumference and embraces the diameter of God’s pur-
pose for humanity. ”Thou shalt call his name Jesus,
for he shall save the people from their sins.”

Here is one at last who is doing, and has been
doing all through the centuries, that which none other
has attempted; namely, saving the soul of man from
Bin. Prior to His coming the best which could be done
for sin-stricken humanity resulted in little more than
an ameliorated and improved moral and mental en-
vironment. Philosophy had been tried in her noblest
representatives — a Plato, an Aristotle, a. Socrates — but
philosophy could not touch the heart, conscience, mo-
tives, the inner springs from which proceed the issues
of life and destiny. Not “the glory that was Greece,
or the grandeur that was Rome,” could bring to man
the consciousness of sins forgiven, and of recovered
moral self-respect. Neither Judaism with its law, nor
the mighty prophets of righteousness, could do more
than discover and reveal sin, leaving man impotent

and helpless in the consciousness of its grip. ”What
the law could not do, in that it was weak through the
flesh, God, by sending his own Son in the likeness of
sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.”
He does not deal with symptoms, but strikes at the
disease itself. He does not announce some little pro-
gram of readjustment, rehabilitation and artificial re-
construction or reformation. ”I have come that ye
might have life, and might have it more abundantly.”
He does not save by rules and props and regulations
or statutory enactments, but by the law of the spirit
of life in Christ Jesus. ”He hath made me free from
the law of sin and of death.”

A personal Saviour for all who would be saved
from sin — “good tidings of great joy for all people” —
this is the glorious announcement which came ringing
from the sky on that first Christmas Day two thousand
years ago. “It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all
acceptation, that Christ came into the world to save
sinners.” I have read somewhere a parable which
represents a man in a pit waiting and praying for
delivery. Buddhism comes that way, and, looking down
upon the poor fellow in his misery, says: “You did not
walk into the pit; you did not run into the pit; in
some previous state of incarnation you came into this
pit.” “Very true,” says the man, “but of what avail
if you can do nothing to get me out?” Likewise,
Mohammedanism passes and says: “It is the will of
Allah.” “I do not dispute your statement,” replies
the man in the pit, “but how does that help me out?”
And so the philosophies, theologies and cults pass by,
impotent and powerless to get the man out of the pit.
Finally, Jesus comes that way and asks, “Wilt thou
be made whole?” and without philosophy or theory,

but with the grip of a mighty love, he lifts the man
out of his prison into the sunlight of happiness. The
question is not as to the truth or falsity of the creeds
and philosophies and theologies. They may all be
perfectly true, only they can not save a soul. ”Weak-
ness” is Paul’s word in this connection. ”What the
law could not do in that it was weak.”

Christmas brings to us the glorious evangel of
Christ’s redeeming love. Pre-eminently it brings a
message to little children. It does more, however; it
brings a universal message. It offers hope — a sure
hope of salvation and moral recovery to the worst of
sinners. Glorious Christ! Glorious gospel! Glorious
hope! ”And now unto him who is able to keep us
from falling, and to present us faultless before the
presence of his glory, unto the only wise Grod our
Saviour, be glory and majesty and power and do-
minion, both now and forever.”

”When Christmas comes,
In field and street, in mart and farm,
The world takes on a lovelier charm;
;Sweet-scented boughs of pine and fir
Are brought like frankincense and myrrh,
To make our hallowed places meet
For hands that clasp and tones that greet.
While hearts worth more than gold or gem
Go forth to find this Bethlehem,
When Christmas comes”