Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
During this time of the year one reads and ponders the prophecies spoken/written about Jesus’ birth, and then the historical accounts in the Gospels of His birth. Though this emphasis may be seasonal since it is the Christmas season in the life of the church, the incarnation is at the center of the Christian faith and our salvation (plus a whole lot more).
I appreciate learning more about this wonderful truth each year. It deepens, broadens and expands my understanding and worship of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Petar Nenadov looks at the Gospels as “Four Accounts, One Savior.” As one reads through the Gospels he notes that no one Gospel tells everything about Jesus’ birth, and some Gospels do not include anything about His birth. He concludes that there is value to study Jesus’ birth and its significance on its own, but it is also important to study it in light of the whole of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
Here is Nenadov’s summary of the four Gospels with a final conclusion (what I include is an excerpt):
Matthew: The story of Christmas is rooted in history.
Matthew's account begins with a genealogy, demonstrating the birth of Jesus is not an isolated event but one rooted in history. In other words, the birth of Jesus is not the beginning of the story. To properly understand Jesus' birth, one must understand the history from which he came.
Mark: The story of Christmas requires our repentance.
When you turn to Mark you notice that he begins with the ministry of John the Baptist, not the birth of Jesus. John's ministry was a plea for Israel to repent. . . . We cannot properly celebrate the birth of our Savior until we acknowledge the reality of our sin. Until we are willing to repent, all the details that surround Jesus' birth and life are rendered inconsequential.
Luke: The story of Christmas invites our worship.
As you turn to Luke, you notice that he gives us the most details of any of the Gospel writers surrounding the birth of Jesus. When people announce that they will read the Christmas story, they are more often than not reading from the second chapter of Luke. It's striking about Luke's attention to detail how often he focuses on the worship that surrounded the birth of Jesus.
John: The story of Christmas restores our relationship.
John does not begin with the birth of Jesus, the ministry of John the Baptist, nor does he begin with the history of Israel. John writes, "In the beginning." The beginning of what? The beginning of everything! According to John, Jesus was with God and was God from before time began. These verses are key the church's understanding of the Trinity. As it relates to the Christmas story, we affirm that Jesus was sent from God. The Creator is the Redeemer; the Judge is the Savior.
Four different Gospel accounts and one conclusion—Jesus is sufficient. Intellectually, according to Matthew, the Christmas story is rooted in history. Morally, according to Mark, the Christmas story requires our repentance. Emotionally, according to Luke, the Christmas story invites our worship. And relationally, according to John, the Christmas story restores our relationship with God.
O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!