The Jesus of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come

As a young teenager in the 1980s, I wrote to The Straits Times’ Forum page, and criticised the Boys’ Brigade’s use of its mascot, Sharity Elephant, to foster goodwill and giving during the Christmas season. The essence of Christmas – that Jesus the Son of God was incarnated as a man to save the world – had been diluted by the use of such a mascot, I argued.

More than two decades later, many Christians would agree with that point. Christmas in contemporary society has become a time of want, not of need, with endless shopping, wishes of “Happy Holidays” and “Seasons Greetings” (political correctness to the extreme, political correctness that seeks to sidestep the First Coming of Jesus). Companies and retailers revel in such a season, since Christmas essentially means the ringing of the tills – and fattening of their bottom-lines.

The modern church of Jesus Christ does better, with depictions of the Nativity and the worship of the baby in a manger, whose birth heralded the salvation of the world and God’s demonstration of His deep desire to have communion with all men. That said, Christmas for Christians should be a time of reflection, not only about the Incarnation of Jesus the Son of God 2,000 years ago, but of His workings in the now and the future. To borrow from Charles Dickens of The Christmas Carol fame, we should take time to reflect on the Jesus of Christmas Past, the Present and Yet to Come.

The Jesus of Christmas Past

The Jesus of Christmas Past should provoke worship and adoration. The Incarnation was a miracle of stupendous proportions – that God, who dwells in unapproachable light, would become incarnated as a helpless babe in a manger.

The early church saw the Incarnation as one of the most important truths of the Christian faith. They formulated the Chalcedonean Creed in 451 AD, which set forth what Christians believe about the Incarnation. The five truths – some of which sound paradoxical – should by themselves inspire worship and adoration of the God-Man.

1. Jesus has two natures — He is God and man.

2. Each nature is full and complete — He is fully God and fully man.

3. Each nature remains distinct.

4. Christ is only one Person.

5. Things that are true of only one nature are nonetheless true of the Person of Christ. [1]

Truths (1) and (2) are mysteries that the human mind cannot fathom. How, for example, can Jesus be God and yet man at the same time? As a man, Jesus was not any less God, but at the same time He was not more than a man! God is omnipresent, but as a man Jesus could only be at 1 place at a time! How much did God love us, so as to descend from His throne to experience weakness as a man, such as hunger, tiredness, rejection and eventually death?

The Jesus of the Present

The Incarnation, however, should not be treated as something that is solely entrenched in the past. Standing in awe of the Incarnate Jesus is one thing, but loving Jesus on a daily basis is quite another. The Jesus of Christmas Past is also the Jesus of the Present.

Therefore, as Christians we have to be careful not to relegate Jesus to the past; He is actively involved in today’s world, and our individual lives. All the significant occurrences in today’s world – the turmoil in the Middle East, the rise of China, the rise and fall of the world’s political leaders – do not happen without Jesus’ approval. The heart of kings are in the hand of the Lord (Proverbs 21:1). In the Book of Revelation, John the Apostle sees the One who sits on the throne, from which proceeded “lightnings, thunderings and voices” (v 3-5). This describes the governmental centre of God – nothing in the world happens without His unction.

Some would say that God is dead, arguing that the widespread suffering around the world invalidates His very existence. They cannot be more wrong. Suffering, as the Christian writer and theologian C.S. Lewis argued, is God’s way of telling mankind that something gone awry in the world. Lewis writes in The Problem of Pain: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” To paraphrase a famous line by the American writer Mark Twain – talk about the demise of Jesus is grossly exaggerated.

The Jesus who is Yet to Come

In Revelation 1:8, Jesus describes Himself as the Alpha and the Omega, the One “who is and who was and who is to come.” As Christians, we should always remember that the Jesus of Christmas Past and Jesus of the Present also has a future element i.e. He is the One who is Yet to Come.

In particular, we should ask God for greater revelation of Jesus who is the Bridegroom, King and Judge upon His return. Jesus is the Bridegroom who is eagerly seeking His Bride, the Church. He would go to any length to secure His Bride. Psalm 2 talks about how we should “kiss the Son, lest He be angry.” In Isaiah 54:5 we are told that Jesus is our Bridegroom.

In the Second Coming, Jesus will also be King to establish His rule among the nations (Psalm 2:6). Psalm 98 talks about the return of Jesus to establish His Kingdom as a king (v6). Finally, Jesus will return as a Judge over the nations. Isaiah 63 talks about Jesus treading the winepress, with His garments dyed red from the fury of His judgment. Jesus’ robes will be dipped in blood as He will destroy nations and people who will challenge His authority at the end of the Age (Revelation 19:13). In Matthew 25, we see that Jesus will judge the nations when He returns.

The three facets of His identity – Bridegroom, King and Judge – should provoke us into further meditation and prayers for God to reveal the mysteries of Jesus’ identity upon His Second Coming. The explicit imagery Him being the Bridegroom, King, and Judge might be alien to some believers. But come Christmas, they should inspire awe, and a greater desire for Jesus to be made known in our hearts.

Joy to the World is a famous hymn typically sung during the Christmas season. But it should remembered that Isaac Watts, the creator of the hymn, meant it in the context of Psalm 98, heralding the 2nd Coming of Jesus at the end of the Age. We should reflect on Verse 4:

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Our Lord Jesus is more than a babe in the manger! He lives today, and is returning to rule as Bridegroom, King and Judge! All the more, this Christmas season, our hearts should pine and yearn for His return. The Spirit and the Bride say “Come!” (Rev 22:17).

[1]Matt Perman, “How can Jesus be God and man?” Desiring God, [accessed 12 May 2013]