If an alien landed in my city, would that being be able to figure out what we are doing with our Christmas celebrations? There are pretty lights, giant whimsical inflatables in people’s yards, intense traffic in the shopping areas, and a high incidence of bad Christmas movies on TV. These things may belie the true meaning of Christmas for many people. But in a few yards, including mine, there is a manger scene with Mary and Joseph looking at their baby. It seems inconsequential compared to the 20-foot-tall inflatable Santa across the street. Yet, none of the other stuff is the source of Christ-mas. None of the other stuff is anything more than a cultural event to brighten the darkest portion of the year. The actual birth of Christ is immensely significant. Everybody should know why.
This is not just a birth of a historical religious leader. Jesus is an absolutely unique person, because His mission is unique.
This is the problem. God can do anything, but that doesn’t mean He is willing to do everything. For instance, His Law is something He doesn’t compromise or ignore. This is a problem for human beings. Even science would confirm that we are related to one woman. The Bible tells us it is one man and one woman, who are identified as Adam and Eve. These people were created by God as genetically unblemished, sinless, and having free will. Their free will had it relatively easy. They had one, clear-cut rule to follow. Don’t eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This is not a magic tree nor is it an arbitrary one. This is some sort of biological agent, allowed in their living space, that can change them genetically. Disobeying breaks God’s command. Disobeying essentially tells God that we don’t trust you.
The temptation to eat from the tree doesn’t come from need for food. The temptation comes from a suggestion presented by a being, of much higher powers than a human, who has already embraced rebellion against God (Satan). This would be a sad story if the impact of rebellion only affected the perps. It doesn’t. The genetic modification and possible other kinds of modification gets passed down to every descendent, and tragically that is every one of us.
It is hard to imagine an unself-centered human baby. We haven’t seen one. The horrifying bloodbath that is human history wouldn’t have ever happened. We would exist in peace. We would speak to God face-to-face. We would love our existence, but we would hardly recognize it compared to what has actually happened. Sinful human nature stimulated by Satan has packed an ugly punch.
God could have bailed on us or just terminated the species. He seems to have pity on us. He declares to love us. God proves this by the birth of Jesus. Jesus isn’t just a teacher or leader, He is the incarnate Son of God. Just in case you are unfamiliar with the word “incarnate”, it just means “in the flesh”. A being, responsible for all of Creation, who has always existed as the Son of God volunteered to do something extraordinary. It is akin to a cartoonist literally becoming a part of a cartoon. The Son of God became human.
How? It involved God interacting non-sexually with a virgin woman. It didn’t involve a human man because apparently that would result in a sinful human nature genetic make-up. Jesus, God incarnate, had to be sinless; and that includes not have sinful nature.
Why? Jesus was born to keep God’s Law perfectly from conception until death. This would involve resisting external temptation (something Adam and Eve found too hard). The second part of the mission was that Jesus would experience the penalty of the Law that was earned by the rest of us. That penalty is death.
Death isn’t lapsing into non-existence. Death is the separation of the soul and body. Death is also the rejection and abandonment of the person by God (forsakeness). This is vastly worse than it sounds. The first part isn’t so bad. The second part is a nightmare.
How does this help? It is similar to how we got in trouble in the first place. I am connected to Adam and Eve genetically. Their error impacts me. If I can be connected to Jesus, His obedience and suffering become mine. Jesus had no children, so genetics isn’t the bridge. The Son of God can connect to us in a way that is beyond our current understanding. It is usually accomplished through baptism.
Christmas becomes a big deal because it confirms that God hasn’t abandoned our species, He actually loves us, He has a solution to our problem, and He has enacted that plan. Christmas celebrates an unthinkable miracle–that the Son of God would stoop to become one of us (permanently), and would do so to eternally save as many of us as possible. That’s a big deal.
Santa and gift-giving are nice. The kids’ stories are cute but fictitious. The Incarnation is historical, relevant to all, and absolutely critical.
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.1 John 4:9-10 (ESV)