Understanding Christmas

Almost everyone has some idea of what Christmas celebrates. Almost all know that it celebrates the birth of Jesus, and He is the founder of Christianity. Not very many people, though, have taken the time to think about Christmas and to understand exactly what the celebration means to and for them. And, the commercialization of His birthday starts before Halloween with stores putting up decorations nearly three months in advance. This has backfired to a large extent, with shoppers rebelling against the early decorations, and many of them actually stop shopping at stores that overly commercialize Christmas. But still, the import of the day is minimized in most peoples’ minds. So, let’s take a look at what Christmas really means.

First, Chrismas represents the day that God came to earth in the form of a human. That is amazing in itself. The Creator of the universe came to earth (John 1:1-3,14). And, He did so for your benefit, which is even more amazing. He came to earth so that He can have a personal relationship with you, with me, and with all people who accept Him as their Lord and Savior. That’s incredible when you think about it. The Creator of all things wants to have a personal relationship with you, and He came to earth for that purpose.

Even more amazing is His coming to earth through being born of the virgin woman prophesized in the Old Testament, and He grew up from a baby to an adult as any other human would. He didn’t come down from a cloud with great fanfare and install Himself as ruler of the world. He came as a human baby as a sign to His people that He was here: “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Emmanuel” ( Isaiah 7:14). The name Emanuel means God with us (Matthew 1:16). Isaiah leaves no doubt that the infant was God: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given. And the government shall be upon His shoulder: And His name (singular) shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6; emphasis added).

His mother Mary wasn’t just any woman, even though she didn’t have exceptional social status. She was of the house of Judah and the royal lineage of King David, and the daughter of Eli. Jesus was to assume the role of king, but not in the manner the Jews expected Him to assume (Luke 1:26-33). They therefore rejected Him as king. But the wise men who came to see Him by following the star (and there may have been two, three, or many. The Bible never says anywhere that there were three) knew without a doubt that He was the new-born king.

You might expect, as I first did, that Jesus was a very good-looking and charismatic person. He wasn’t. He was normal looking with no distinguishing features. In fact according to Isaiah, He was quite homely and not of any distinguishing features in face or body. And, He wasn’t born into royalty as the Son of a great king. He was born of a seamingly ordinary couple who could not find lodging for the night, so the baby had to be born in a manger and lying on a bed of hay (Luke 2:1-7). That’s not how you or I would expect the Creator to bring Himself into the world. Not at all. But He came that way as a lesson to us, that we should follow His example of how to live our lives, as He often said during His ministry on earth.

Jesus’ birth from the virgin was important because He had to be the offspring of the Holy Spirit, not a human father. He could only be God in the flesh if God was His father. If Joseph had been His father he would have been just another boy, another human. In the sense of the Trinity, God as one Being in three Persons, God had to be His own Father, with the Son being born of the Holy Spirit through the appointed virgin from King David’s royal line (Matthew 1:1-16).

The most important reason the Son came to earth was to provide a means of salvation for His most beloved creation, humans ( Genesis 1:26–28; John 3:16). When Jesus was before the Jewish authorities, a counselor named Caiaphas understood Jesus’ purpose. He told the authorities that it “was expedient that one man should die for the people” ( John 18:14). Jesus told Pilate, “You say that I am a king. To this end I was born, and for this cause I came into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” ( John 18:37; emphasis added). So, God’s purposes for coming to us was to provide a means of salvation which we cannot obtain for ourselves, and to instruct us on what our purpose as Christians is, and how we should live our lives by following His example.

Christ Jesus gave us our purpose in life in the Great Commission to “go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them of all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world” (Matthew 28:19,20). Therefore, Christmas is solidly tied to Easter, Christ’s rising from the grave. His triumph over death gives us triumph over spiritual death. Jesus demonstrated in the garden that the Jews and Romans had no power over Him by knocking them all flat. The world was made and is maintained through Jesus’ power (John 1:1-3). Jesus allowed Himself to be arrested and crucified on our behalf. Only a perfect person who was without even one sin could die in our place on the cross. If He had committed even one little sin, He would have been dying for Himself, not for us. Only God is without sin, so only God could die in our place on the cross.

Christmas, then, is the initiating act of a continuous event spanning the time from Christ’s birth to His death on the cross. It is God’s loving us enough that He would come to earth as a homeless itinerate evangelist and suffer the excruciating death of the cross to provide our pathway to Him in heaven. Christmas, in its story of the greatest king being born on hay in a manger, is His example to us on humility. When His disciples asked a silly question about an apostle, Jesus responded, Why care about what he does, you follow Me. And that’s the message of Christmas, that is what we should celebrate. It’s the example to each of us individually as to how each of us in our own capacity is to follow Him in the manner He has predetermined for us.

Christmas is a time for celebrating. It’s a time for gathering with friends and family, and it’s a time for exchanging gifts. Certainly, the birth of the King is worthy of celebration in itself. But most importantly, it’s a day for celebrating who and what we are in Christ, and to be thankful that God loves us-loves you- enough that He would go through all His trials here on earth just for you. He didn’t have to do all of that for you, but He wanted to because He loves you. That is what we should be celebrating this and every Christmas. Getting good news is something everyone wants to share with everyone else, just as He said we should. The word gospel means good news. So let’s start spreading the good news of what the Son’s coming to earth really means to you and everyone who will hear His voice.

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