For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:17)
It is said that “familiarity breeds contempt.” One need look no further than the season of Christmas to see the truth of this axiom. Forget about the lost world that has no concept of the true meaning of Christmas. Christians, who should possess at least a rudimentary understanding of the significance of the season, too often get caught up in the madness associated with “the holidays” right along with those who know no better.
In all the cacophony of TV and radio commercials, traffic noise, buzzing shopping malls, clanging Salvation Army bells, and “holiday” music at every turn, does the question even come up? Why Christmas? Why all the fuss? In spite of all the warm sentiments intoned by joyful holiday songs, the season carries with it an increase in stress, depression and even suicide. So much for “Happy Holidays!” Why bother?
I remember visiting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlem, Israel last year. We stood for two and a half painful hours on hard, uneven limestone floors waiting to see the supposed place of Jesus’ birth. When we finally crouched through the constricted cave opening, we found a small alcove adorned with a plethora of lighted candles illuminating a gold 14-pointed star in the center of a polished marble floor. A hole in the center of the star marked the very spot where Mary gave birth to the baby Jesus. The garish display rendered the prolonged anticipation anticlimactic. Perhaps in a similar fashion, the significance of Christmas has been long lost to the millennia of ostentatious trappings and traditions we have attached to it.
So, why Christmas? Stop! Silence the noise! Trash the shiny paper and bright bows and ribbons! Douse the twinkling lights! Be still and think!
We, humans, suffer from a terminal condition called death. We inherited this terminal condition from our original parents, Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). They were originally created to live forever, but their disobedience to God’s only command brought upon them the death penalty. Did I mention that they were created to live forever? The death penalty, therefore, comes in two phases: physical death and spiritual death. Because of Adam’s sin, we all die physically. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). However, the spirit continues through eternity. Spiritual death is eternal separation from the Creator; the Bible calls that the “second death.” “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Revelation 20:14).
Because of Adam’s sin, all humans suffer the same fate. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). No one is excluded from the death sentence, and all must pay the price. “For the wages of sin is death …” (Romans 6:23).
However, God made a temporary provision for covering the sins of man. It was the blood sacrifice of an innocent animal, but that was not a permanent fix. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). The fact remains that sin is humanity’s problem. Animals do not sin; they are innocent. Therefore, the “wages of sin” must be paid by man, not animals, but that is the problem. No human is innocent, i.e., sinless. “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
The Bible teaches God loves us, even though we are all sinners. However, God is holy and just, and He cannot and will not allow sin to go unpunished. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, emphasis mine). God does not want us to be eternally separated from Him, but the sin debt must be paid.
Therefore God became a man born of a virgin untouched by any man so that He could be born completely free from the curse of sin. He grew up like any other man but without sin. “For we have not an high priest [Jesus Christ] which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, emphasis mine). “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8, emphasis mine). “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).
Why Christmas? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, emphasis mine). There’s your Christmas present! God became a man to be the perfect sacrifice to pay the wages of sin in our stead so that we will not have to be eternally separated from Him. He offers us our redemption as a gift if we choose to accept it. That’s why Christmas.