Christmassy words we often hear related to the letter “I” are fewer in number than others in the word. The short list includes ice skates, icicle, icy, and ivy. That isn’t a very impressive list and none of the words point to Christmas directly. In the song C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S that is the structure for this series and that Jim Reeves made famous, the letter stands for Israel.
Israel’s place and position in the world and with God have been a source of contention and debate in the world from the very beginning up to events of this week. For those who believe in the Bible as absolute truth, the evidence is clear. There are 22 Bible verses that refer to Israel being God’s chosen people. The first is in Exodus 19:5-6 (NIV) and reads:
“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all the nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words you (Moses) are to speak to the Israelites.”
Many might ask why God selected or elected this group of people, or this culture for such an honor. God answers the question in Deuteronomy 7:6-8 (ESV) referring to the covenant He first made with Abraham, confirmed with Isaac, and confirmed again with Jacob (renamed by Him as Israel). Here are the verses:
6 “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”
Abraham’s faith and obedience honored and blessed God and the covenant was made and sealed between them. From that point on, nothing changed the commitment or the promise. Prophets foretold that from this people through David’s house, a Savior would be born in Bethlehem of Judea. And so it was.
God never said this was a perfect group, culture, or faith body, but His own words declare a covenant and commitment that puts Israel, as it should be in the song for the letter “I”. I think it should comfort those of us who call ourselves Christians to realize that since there is more than a little evidence to demonstrate that even after the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ we who believe in Him have faltered, failed, and fallen. We have many times been a contentious group within our own faith. And yet…
We, too, were chosen and the rowdy disciple and later apostle, Peter, makes that clear in his first letter written to Christians scattered throughout the world at that time as a result of the suffering and persecution of the church.
In 1 Peter 2:9 (ESV) he writes these words:
“ But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
Bible scholars point out that Peter’s words point to the consecration of sinners into new creations. God has graciously included the Gentiles (not just Israelites) in His purpose and plans. Peter may have been referring to prophecies such as Hosea 2:23 that foretold He would elect others to be a part of His kingdom.
So, how does all this fit with Christmas?
God chose His Son, Jesus, to be the “Curse Crusher and Covenant Keeper,” for the promises that He made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their lineage. He chose to make a way for any who would believe and receive the gift of grace, to be reconciled to Him, and join Him in ruling and reigning in His kingdom. He was and still is, the perfect gift, the first gift of Christmas!
His birth that we celebrate tells those of us who believe in Him and receive that gift that He chooses us also. Since Christmas is traditionally known as the time of giving and receiving gifts, there is no better gift we can receive than to choose Him who first chose us.
That makes us chosen as well! What a Christmas gift He was and is!