There are many reasons and places to experience a first Christmas away from home. If you have, you understand. Have you thought of the first time anyone spent Christmas away from home - the very first time? Have you thought of Mary and Joseph in this way? About 90 miles south of their home, family and friends in Nazareth, they would experience the very first Christmas in the ancient city of Bethlehem.
Joseph and Mary could not have known what Christmas would eventually mean to history, and how it would become the one time of the year when so many around the world wanted to be home. Nevertheless, they were certainly aware that the night when Mary’s baby was born was a night like no other – a holy night.
Even so, Mary’s Child could not remain an infant comforted in His virgin mother’s arms. He could not remain a toddler brought back to Nazareth occasioned by his parents return from Egypt. He could not remain a youngster amazing the elders as He taught in the Temple courts. He could not remain the obedient and talented stepson learning the carpenter’s trade as an apprentice to His mother’s husband. He would all too soon become a man, and serve in a public ministry as brief and as bright as the star which had guided the Magi to Bethlehem.
It was meant to be that way. He was never just a baby, never just a toddler, never just a youngster, never just a stepson. He was those things to be sure, but as He was, He was also the Wonderful Counselor - He was the Mighty God - He was the Eternal Father - He was the Prince of Peace - He was God with us. In addition, something more about Him ought to be recognized. He was the very first Person ever to spend Christmas away from home.
On that first Christmas, the Savior of the world had condescended to men of low estate. He had left the splendor of heaven, He had sat aside His royal rights, He had incarnated as a human being in order to become the supreme and ultimate Sacrifice for the sin of the world.
The most alien Person on the planet that first Christmas Day was Jesus himself. He was away from His Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit, away from His heavenly family. On that night, He was among those who could not understand the true meaning of His coming - not even the woman chosen as His birth mother.
Certainly, she and Joseph knew from the angel that this Child was holy. The shepherds confirm it, and later certain Magi reinforced it. Even so, no human being living on earth that first Christmas Day could possibly have imagined that for all of human history, the Baby of Bethlehem was to be the only perfect human being who ever inhabited the planet.
The Christ Child was in reality the Incarnation of the Creator. Skeptics do not accept it, and even believers do not understand fully. What mortal can claim to understand the Incarnation? I cannot, yet I believe it, and trust my eternal life to it. There is mystery here that demands faith - not faith contingent upon the unthinkable - only the immeasurable.
Why God became man is such a profound mystery, yet believable. Love we can understand, though imperfectly. “For God so loved the world.” This we dimly understand, but even dimly, it fills our understanding with wonder and awe. Through the agency of God’s infinite love, the Incarnation became reality, and God dwelt among us in order to redeem us.
From the moment that Mary became the bearer of the Incarnation until the moment of Christ’s ascension back to heaven, the Son of God would spend thirty-three Christmases away from home. Each one would bring Him a step closer to our eternal redemption, and the culmination of a plan to make it possible for "whosoever will" to never truly spend another Christmas away from home.
It would be a long way from the cradle to the cross, longer than thirty-three years of earth life could possibly reflect. The journey that Jesus would make from Bethlehem to Calvary would span the pages of history into the ages of the future. The life and times of Jesus Christ would fulfill nearly four thousand years of prophecy, and light the way to eternity.
During the three and a half years of His public ministry, Jesus would live in increasing isolation until finally, at the cross; He would suffer isolation infinitely greater than his rejection by the religious leaders of His day, and the abandonment by His disciples.
At the cross, He would experience the full weight of the sin of the world, and the total penalty of it under the just judgment of a Holy God who, even for His only begotten Son, could not suffer sin to go unpunished. “He who knew no sin became sin for us.”
We know that we cannot spend all of the coming Christmases that will ever be in the comfort of our earthly home, and with the ones we love so dearly today. We do not like to think about it, and like even less to talk about it amongst ourselves, but we do know that it is appointed unto us once to die. Common sense tells us that at some Christmas future we will be missing from the family gathering, and those who remain will speak of us in the past tense.
As we mature, it becomes increasingly clear that being home is being with those with whom we belong. Yes, we may have a sentimental attachment to a particular place, and even wistfully refer to it as “home” even though we have not lived there for a very long time, and have no plans to return. Yet, real home is wherever we are with the ones dearest to us.
At the Incarnation, Christ left heaven where He was among those who knew him as the Second Person of the Godhead. He lived with them in a harmony of perfect love. This He left to live among those who did not know Him, and for thirty-three and a half years He was away from home.
Prior to His leaving to return to the Father and home, He made His disciples a remarkable promise, and in so doing, extended His promise to everyone who would follow Him by faith. In the Gospel of John He told them:
"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:1-4 NKJV).
Being home is being with our loved ones. Heaven is the true home of the Christian, because heaven is where Jesus is. It should also be where our loved ones can find us after we have left this earthly life. The Good News is the ultimate promise of the Incarnation…the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When Jesus said, “that where I am, there you may be also,” He was inviting us home for Christmas…forever.
None one needs to really be alone, or away from home at Christmas; whosoever will may come home (Revelation 22:17). The home place has already been prepared for the greatest Christmas celebration in the history of the universe. Day by day, the family is gathering, and some day, when the last member has entered the Father’s house, we shall all sit down to a Christmas dinner that the Book of Revelation refers to as the “Wedding Supper of the Lamb,” and we shall all be home for Christmas -forever.
May you and your loved ones have a most blessed Christmas wherever you may be,
Dennis D. Frey, Th.D., President
Master's International University of Divinity
How Natural Law, the Noahide, and Torah Are Like Moral Tutors
There is nexus between natural law, the Noahide
and Torah. In fact, one might argue that
the Noahide exists as an extension of natural law, and Torah as an extension of
the Noahide. To state it another way,
human beings have an innate knowledge of, and capacity for, understanding and
acting upon natural law, and the Noahide and Torah are but a codification of
Even if the Noahide or Torah are not known per
se the basic elements are understood through natural law. Furthermore, natural law and what might be
termed natural truth are attested to
by the very creation. This is why (as
noted previously), the Apostle Paul
in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith as it is
written, 'BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven
against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in
unrighteousness, because that which is know about God is evident to them; for
God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible
attributes, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen being
understood though that which has been made so that they are without
excuse" (Romans 1:17-20).
This same truth is declared throughout the
Psalms. Possibly the best know Psalm on
this subject is 19:1-6:
heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the
work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals
knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their utterances to the end
of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun, Which is as a
bridegroom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices as a strong man to run his
course. Its rising is from one end of the heavens, And its circuit to the other
end of them; And there is nothing hidden from its heat."
Later the Psalmist proclaims: "The heavens declare His righteousness, And all the peoples have
seen His glory. Let all those be ashamed who serve graven images, Who boast
themselves of idols" (Psalm 96:6, 7a).
Thus we can rightly say that natural law, the
Noahide and Torah are like moral tutors to the human mind and heart. Nature speaks to the soul as a tutor though
it speaks without the force of a fuller authority as does the written Word.
The Apostle Paul likened the written Word to a tutor:
"Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so
that we may be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:24). The word "tutor" is often
translated "schoolmaster." In
the Greek it is paidagogos (pada-go-gos) from which we get our word
"pedagogy" meaning to teach a subject.
As Paul used it, the word had a much stronger
meaning. According to Thayer: a tutor
was "a guardian and guide of boys.
Among the Greeks and the Romans the name was applied to trustworthy slaves who
were charged with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging
to the better class. The boys were not allowed so much as to step out of the
house without them before arriving at the age of manhood." 1
When Paul refers to the Law, he is referring to
the Torah, or as we call it, the Old Testament Pentateuch. Never is natural law, the Noahide or
revelation from nature ever afforded the tutorial strength of the Old Testament
Scripture. In fact all references to
"the Word of God" in the New Testament are references to the Law and
the Prophets. Only the written Word is
assigned the power to, as Paul said,
"lead us to Christ."
This is not a minor point. Amazingly, what Jesus used to tutor the
disciples on the Road to Emmaus following His resurrection was not His
resurrected body, but the written Word.
So says St. Luke:
He said to them, 'O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the
prophets have spoken! Was it not
necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?' Then beginning with Moses and with all the
prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the
Scriptures" (Luke 24:25-27).
Earlier in Jesus' ministry He tutored His
disciples by using a real-life example of the fundamental importance of the
written Word. It is remarkable that most
Christian preachers and teachers seem to miss the central point of Jesus'
account of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The
main point is that the Rich Man being a Torah observant Jew had no excuse for
neglecting his obligations to moral truth.
Hear our Lord teaching here:
he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they
will repent!' "But he said to him,
'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded
even if someone rises from the dead'" (Luke
Think of it - the testimony of the written Word
was powerful enough to enlighten anyone who would accept it - who would make a
moral choice to accept it, and those who chose otherwise were without excuse.
And therein lies the weakness of natural law,
the Noahide and even Torah.
Next, we will answer the question of, "Why Even Moral Tutors are Not
Sufficient For Salvation." But first, we will take a break for a few weeks to reflect on the Incarnation of Christ, and what it means to be away from home at Christmas.
For a deeper study, you are encouraged
to consider enrolling in our 3 credit-hour academic course "THE LAW OF
UNIVERSAL RIGHTEOUSNESS: Natural Law, the Noahide, and the Torah." You can
check out all of our regular academic programs by clicking this link: PROGRAMS.
Thank you for sharing time with me. I hope this brief post
will encourage you to want to learn more about the laws of universal
righteousness, and the manner in which God has implanted the awareness of right
and wrong within your own heart and mind.
Dennis D. Frey, Th.D.,
We often speak of the "age of
accountability." Or, to be more
precise, the age of comprehension.
Usually such conversations revolve around the age at which a child can
be held responsible for understanding the moral difference between right and
Universally, children who commit
crimes are held to a different standard, but what is not universally agreed
upon is at what age a child becomes morally responsible for his or her actions. This is understandable because children
mature at different ages, and understanding is not totally tied to the calendar.
Furthermore, we recognize that some
human beings are by reason of birth mentally incapable of ever understanding
moral truth, and can never reach an age of comprehension (accountability). Biblically, this does not diminish their
worth in the sight of God, but actually makes them a precious gift to their
families and to humankind as a whole.
Jesus himself speaks to this in the
context of little children: "See
that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their
angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven"
Yet, an age of accountability remains
somewhat of an elusive thing to define.
Timothy Boyd in addressing this subject for the Holman Bible Dictionary
say it (I think) quite well.
The age of accountability is a concept not directly mentioned
in the Bible. What the Bible teaches about personal responsibility for sin and
the nature of salvation compels us to define this concept. Basically, the age
of accountability is that time in the development of a person when he or she
can and invariably does sin against God and thus stands in the need of personal
redemption through Jesus Christ. Even under the Old Testament, the Jews
recognized that children could not be held personally accountable to the law of
Moses. They set the arbitrary age of twelve as the year when a child assumed
adult status in religious matters.1
What is so compelling here is not that
we can with complete accuracy state when a child (or a person of limited mental
faculties) can be held responsible for his or her choices by reason of having
made a knowing moral choice, but that it is universally recognized that a
person "can" reach that age, and that most in fact do so.
The conversation then must move on to
address moral choice and freewill within the context of human existence. What are the sources of moral truth?
Next, we will answer the
question of how, "How Natural Law, The Noahide, And Torah Are Like Tutors."
For a deeper study, you are encouraged to consider enrolling in our 3
credit-hour academic course "THE LAW OF UNIVERSAL RIGHTEOUSNESS: Natural
Law, the Noahide, and the Torah." You can check out all of our regular
academic programs by clicking this link: PROGRAMS.
Thank you for sharing time with me. I hope this brief post will encourage
you to want to learn more about the laws of universal righteousness, and the
manner in which God has implanted the awareness of right and wrong within your
own heart and mind.
Dennis D. Frey, Th.D.,