Every year during the Holidays people call for the “Christmas spirit”. Depending on who you talk with, that can mean anything from baby Jesus to feeding the poor to getting smashed at the office Christmas party. Many of our Christmas traditions are great, but they have little to do with the essence of Christmas. As a friend reminded me, there was only one Christmas; everything that followed is an anniversary of God’s stunning intrusion into our lives. To understand Christmas, we first have to be honest about life as we know it. Sin has so marred life that it shows up in our relationships and even creation itself. We all hate cancer, regret broken relationships, and wish there were no sad good-byes. Everyone wants world peace but just a glance at current events or world history reminds us that’s not happening any time soon. Yes, Christmas is about baby Jesus; but if you don’t know who He is or why He came, His advent fades into the sea of epic myths that have no bearing on your life whatsoever.
It is not enough to mention Jesus on top of a million other things. Allow me a moment to paint a picture of Christmas from the pages of sacred Scripture…
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
From the very beginning God addressed the awful issue of sin which had pervaded life and spoiled creation. If you’ve lived at all, you know things are not as they should be: disease, broken families, poverty, war, just to name a few. Speaking to Eve, God said a special descendant would bring healing and crush the forces of evil. In the unfolding drama of redemption, this vague prophetic statement would sharpen in focus as others announced the advent of this Special One…
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
Centuries later a sure sign was given, a miraculous birth only God could pull off. Messiah (“anointed one”) would be called Immanuel, which means “God with us”. God would actually veil His deity to live among us; being born of a virgin He bypassed the sinful line of Adam…a crucial detail to His mission.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given. And he will be called…Mighty God.”
Still 700+ years before His birth, Messiah’s identity would be more clearly spelled out. One is hard-pressed in a Jewish community to find a baby named “God” – such would be blasphemy. A child is born – for sure, a baby boy was born that first Christmas Day. Yet, a son was given. What is this? This is God’s own Son, with no beginnings, who was gifted to us that morn. There’s more…
“But you, Bethlehem…out of you will come for me one…whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
This is one of my favorite Christmas prophecies: 500 years before His birth, God calls out the specific little town in which Jesus would be born! All throughout the Hebrew Scriptures God is crying out, “don’t miss this!” Jesus was born, yes, but that was not His beginning. This is why Jesus’ birth is so significant – look at Who He is and how He was born! But why did He come, anyway?
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Jesus did not come to merely set an example for good behavior or teach us to love our neighbor. Not at all. He came to suffer. He came to die a violent death at the hands of those He created. This passage from Isaiah 53 vividly describes Jesus suffering which was all for one purpose: to reconcile sinful man to Himself and ultimately make all things new. As Jesus suffered in our place, He condemned sin in his body as He hung accursed on the cross. Remember, this statement was made centuries before His birth, and the veracity of the Isaiah text has been vindicated through the Dead Sea Scrolls.
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
This simple declaration from Jesus distills why He came: to give life. That’s an odd statement, to say you’re bringing life to those who are already living. But it rings true for those who know the hollow emptiness that echoes endlessly in our soul. He came to enable us to truly live. He is saying that He brings hope to those who have none, that He restores our relationship with our Creator, that He enables us to serve Him with a clear conscience, that we will live through eternity in glory with Him, that here…and now…we can truly live.
“For God so loved the world, He gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Here is the simplest statement of what it’s all about. Jesus is the greatest expression of God’s love that He could possibly make. Through Him we find forgiveness, hope, and eternal life…not due to our own efforts, but received as a GIFT. But, note one important truth: we must respond to Jesus Christ. It’s not enough to sing carols when your mind is on Santa or pause from the revelry to pay homage. Jesus Christ is LORD, and to believe in Him is to acknowledge this and embrace Him without reservation for who He is. No more games and showing up for church twice a year. To truly believe in Jesus is to trust in His death on the cross as the only payment for your sins, fully recognizing your utter inability to properly address them yourself.
Friend – have you bent the knee to the Lord Jesus? No matter what your background or where you are in life – the Bible says today is the day of your salvation. You are not guaranteed one more day; you are always one breath away from eternity. You will face God Almighty with your sins forgiven through Jesus, or, you will face Him with no remedy as you are consumed by the terror of His holy presence.
This Christmas Season, don’t miss its meaning, and respond to this wonderful expression of love. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to inbox me or the one who reposted.
Merry Christmas and may it be the Happiest New Year yet ever for you,