Article Dec 22, 2017

Why Christmas is about the gospel

It’s 5:30 a.m., and I am nestled under a blanket near the Christmas tree. My Bible is open. My hands are hugging a steaming cup of spiced tea. All is calm. All is bright. I sigh happily and think, “Christ was born for this.”

Now, it’s 6:30 a.m. I am waking my three boys up for school. My oldest is grumpy and refusing to get out of bed. My middle had an accident and needs me to strip his freshly washed sheets. The littlest one starts throwing up. I sigh again, only this time it’s a less-than-happy sigh. I feel my heart course-correct, and I remember that Christ was born for this.

A cross carved from a manger

Do you remember the angels’ words to the shepherds that first Christmas?

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10-12, emphasis mine).

If Christ’s work had stopped with his incarnation, it would have been remarkable, but not redemptive. But he didn’t stop there, did he?

I love the joy of the Christmas season, but when I fall for the the lie that Jesus came to deliver twinkly lights and sparkly bows, I miss the point. Do you? The wonder of this season is only possible because of the horror of the cross. Yes, Christ was born as a baby, swaddled up tight by his young mother and placed in a manger, but that is only the beginning of the story, not the end. It was fitting for baby Jesus to feel the rough hewn wood of that rustic crib on his tiny back, because soon enough he would hang from the splintered wood of the cross.

Our King didn’t just come to rescue a few. News of his arrival didn’t stop with the shepherds. Jesus came to bring good news to all people. What is the good news? That Jesus was willing to do whatever it took to obey the Father and become our Savior. But what did he save us from? That is the question we must force our hearts to ponder this Christmas season.

Matthew 1:21 says, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (emphasis mine). Christ wasn’t born to deliver us warm fuzzies, but to deliver us from sin and death.

Christ was born for this

When we set aside our expectations for Norman-Rockwell-like celebrations and perfect families tied up in pretty bows, we see that Christ was born for the redemption of . . .

  • Our fractured marriages
  • Our rebellious children
  • Our secret sins
  • Our relational turmoil
  • Our broken systems
  • Our diseased bodies

He was born to save sinners—the worst of us—and to redeem our hard, sad, impossible situations. Christ was not born for tinseled trees (though they are beautiful!), but because we are a people walking blindly in the darkness of sin and in desperate need of a great light. Our unmet expectations, ungrateful relatives, and post-Christmas blues aren’t signs that we somehow missed the “reason for the season.” They are ever present reminders of why we need a Savior so desperately.

The deep darkness

I’ve spent recent months considering the gap between the Old and New Testaments. For a span of 400 years, God’s prophets stopped prophesying. His priests stopped making sacrifices. His kings stopped leading his people. It was the darkest moment on the entire timeline of history and a stark reminder of the state of the kingdom before Jesus came. Everyone needed a permanent remedy for their sin problem. And we needed to be saved from the spiritual death that sin inevitably leads to. It was a historical picture of a personal problem. Without Jesus, our lives and hearts are dark, not merry and bright.

When things were continually bad in the kingdom, God didn’t just send a message. He didn’t use couriers to announce a royal edict. He came himself, with a message of hope. He was the message we needed.

“[Christ] saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:9-10).

It doesn’t make for a cute Christmas card, but I need the reminder that I’m a sinner.  Without the Light of men, we’d all be forced to walk in perpetual darkness. But—here’s the good news—Jesus chose to wrap himself in humility, in weakness, and in humanity to save us. The gospel is what Christmas is really about. Truly, Christ was born for this.