Introduction: May this sixth set of notes on Romans magnify our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, born in the manger so that God could take on our nature forever:
Monday: read Romans 1:1-4. Every Apostolic presentation of the Gospel highlights the birth of Christ as foundational. For example, consider how the Apostle Paul begins the book of Romans:
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Meditate and Pray: How we must celebrate all the year round the sinless and human birth of the Son of God. Because He is God, He gives an infinite saving power and worth to His sufferings and saving work on our behalf. Because He is truly man, He can represent us as the One obedient to the Father’s will in our place. These two natures combined in One Perfect God-Man means salvation has been accomplished once and for all! Hallelujah!
Tuesday: read Romans 1:1-4 and Matthew 1:18-23. The One born in the flesh of the virgin Mary brings the fulness of the godhead down into human nature. This Jesus Christ, Savior and King, is also the LORD, meaning that He bears the very personal Name of God from the Old Testament as proof that He is equal with the Father. No wonder the angel who announces His birth to the shepherds in Luke 2:11 declares that His Name will be “Christ the LORD”!
That God should be take on human flesh in Bethlehem also fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 that God would dwell with us as none other than “Immanuel,” which means “God with us.” This fulfillment of the Old Testament Matthew cites in Matthew 1:23. What a comfort to have the very the fulness of God to dwell among us and in us as our Savior!
Meditate and Pray: Let us learn to cherish the names given our Savior at His birth. In particular, let’s remember, as Fisher’s Catechism Q & A urges us to do, that this particular name “Immanuel” means that “God is in our nature, and that a God in our nature cannot be against us, but is God with us and for us, to save us from the hands of all our enemies (Luke 1:71)!
Wednesday: read Romans 1:1-4 & Luke 2:1-5. Paul agrees with Luke 2:4 that our Savior was born “of the house and lineage of David” and that He is also the Son of God. How amazing to read, therefore, that Christ’s lofty Kingdom as the “Son of David” was compelled to bow low under the Imperial might of the Roman Caesar! Caesar demanded that all citizenry of the Roman Empire, including Joseph and Mary, return to their original home town. This meant an arduous journey for Mary with child – back to Bethlehem. How amazing that God’s Son should submit to such a census! But this is merely one example of how ‘low’ our Savior would go to save us from our sins.
Where then is the power of God in such a lowly birth? Well, don’t miss what the angel Gabriel says to Mary about the One to be born of her in Luke 1:35: “Therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God.” The deity of the child in the manger is declared! But don’t miss the “holiness” of this child. For it was His sinless holiness as a man which ensured that He would rise from the dead! As Romans 1:4 puts it, He was raised in power “according to the Spirit of holiness”! Death could not hold Him because He was not subject to the “wages of sin, which is death” (Romans 6:23)!
Meditate and Pray: Have you ever pondered the saving power of Christ’s holiness? We often think of God’s holiness as something esoteric – a quality belonging only to the God who dwells far away in Heaven. But how marvelous that our Savior became a man to make holiness beautiful in our nature, and to make it mighty to save! Oh may the Lord help us through the rest of this new year to “worship the Lord in the beauty of His holiness” (Psalm 96:9)!
Thurs/Fri: read Luke 2:6-16. The shepherds heard the announcement of Christ’s birth from the glories of the Heavens and through the voices of myriads of angels. How shocking, then, for them to find the Christ child in an animal stall! There He was – with swaddling bands around His legs, because the Jews of those days superstitiously believed that an infant’s legs had to be tightly wrapped to ensure they would grow straight! Every ignominy imaginable confronted our Lord at His birth!
Meditate and Pray: C.S. Lewis well describes Christ’s willingness to descend so deep into the ignominy and weakness of our humanity with these words:
“In the Christian story God descends to re-ascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down to the very roots and sea-bed of the Nature He has created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders.”
“Or one may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to color and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks the surface again, holding in his hand the precious thing that he went down to recover. He and it are both colored now that they have come up into the light: down below, where it lay colorless in the dark, he lost his color too.”
As James Philip put it when he quoted the words above: This is a Divine movement of salvation on a huge scale – from such heights to such depths!
Sat/Sun: read Luke 2:16-20. In stressing the humble setting of Christ’s birth, we must not thereby assume that the shepherds’ impression of the Christ-child was mere wonder at His lowly birth. There was great glory surrounding this birth, and the shepherds rejoiced with real faith when they found everything to be true of which the angel had spoken. But undoubtedly there were (and are today) many without eyes of faith who see nothing of the Glory of God in this birth. As the hymn writer says in hymn # 128, “they scan God’s work in vain.” Blessed are you to have eyes to see!
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.