“Jesus – man, yet God; Jesus – allied to us in ties of blood – oh! here is a reason for holy mirth! Here is Christmas all year round.”
Charles Spurgeon loved Christmas, in fact, he once said, “I like Christmas; I wish it came six times a year.” He liked the generosity of “those who give to the poor,” and as for the cheer of the season exclaimed “I would not stop a smile. God forbid me!”
Indeed, Spurgeon really loved Christmas, so much so that he wished “there were ten or a dozen Christmas-days in the year.” After all, “there is work enough in the world” and he thought “a little more rest would not hurt labouring people.”
Indeed, again, Spurgeon really, really loved Christmas so much that he wished “there were twenty Christmas days in the year.” For, it was seldom that “young men can meet with their friends” and distant relatives could be “united as happy families.” Indeed, Christmas was “one of England’s brightest days,” the “great Sabbath of the year,” and a sacred “family institution.”
However, Spurgeon also said “I have no respect to the religious observance of the day.”
When Spurgeon spoke of the “religious observance of the day” he had in mind the institutionalization of the 25th of December as an “ecclesiastical custom” of “purely popish origin.” Spurgeon was no scrooge, but he demurred about the canonization of Christmas which made it a cultural ornament.
In Spurgeon’s view, the true significance of Christmas was that it “compelled” people to “think of the birth of Christ.” Indeed, Spurgeon argued that “you may keep his birthday all year round” if one remembered that “in a spiritual sense he is born every day of every year in some men’s hearts.” For Spurgeon, the Incarnation was the foundation of mankind’s salvation, and that made it all the more beautiful.
For Spurgeon, the Incarnation was “a mystery, a wondrous mystery” more easily believed than defined. While he believed it was impossible to find words which were “exactly accurate” to describe the “wonderful incarnation” he nonetheless had much to say.
In the Incarnation “God has become flesh.” Simply, “the Infinite has assumed the form of an infant.” When Christ came down he was “as really man as he is God” just as he was “God and man in one person.”
Jesus Christ, in his human nature, was “born,” “begotten of the Holy Ghost,” and “born of the Virgin Mary.” But, in his nature as God he was “not born; but given,” “begotten of his Father from before all worlds,” “begotten – not made, being of the same substance with the Father.”
Jesus Christ was “man, yet God.” He was “allied to us in ties of blood” and in his atoning death the “groans of pain,” and the “moans of despair” were put to death themselves. In taking on the “weakness of man” he died as the Christian’s substitute, and “had he not died we must have died for ever.” For Spurgeon, the Incarnation was “a means to atonement.”
In light of this, Spurgeon insisted that “the doctrine of the incarnation of Christ is meat to your soul,” while the “great truth” of his “substitutionary sacrifice” was “the most nourishing cordial to your heart.” Indeed, Spurgeon could not help but to exclaim, “Oh, that glorious doctrine…there is healing in it!”
For Spurgeon the response was simple, all were commanded to “Come and worship God manifest in the flesh.” Christians, like the wise men, were to “bring your offerings,” including the “gold of love,” the “frankincense of praise,” and the “myrrh of penitence.” Indeed, he said “When you have realized all that Christ’s incarnation and death have meant for you…your heart must surely have danced at the sound of his name.”
However, the salvation wrought by this miracle which “outmiracles miracle” came with implications. First, if anyone had “any doubt” about whether Jesus Christ was “willing” or “able” to save they had no cause for fear. For, Christ had proven his purpose when he “left the thrones and royalties of heaven to be born into this world as a babe.”
Second, the “great reality” of the Incarnation demanded that believers “turn away from all the frothy novelties of modern thought and the vain inventions of man.” Rather, the Christian was to “behold the crown of your adorable Lord,” and “dwell on the literal, historical incarnation of the Son of God.”
Finally, Spurgeon said that “when heaven entrusts a man with a merciful revelation, he is bound to deliver the good tidings.” Just as the angels were tasked spreading the message abroad, so too then Christians “must keep this Christmas by telling to your fellow-men” the great news of “Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.”
This Christmas Spurgeon would have us contemplate Christ and His Incarnation and:
“Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.” – Mark 5:19
From all of us at The Spurgeon Library, Merry Christmas!
Director of The Spurgeon Library
Phillip Ort serves at the Director of The Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City where he is also pursuing a Master of Divinity degree.