Do you like Christmas? Are you celebrating it this year? Better stated: Is it appropriate for YOU to be celebrating Christmas? Is this really something that you stand for so much that it merits all the public display and effort that you place into the holiday activities?
Think about it. Christmas is such a prominent holiday around the world that people can get sucked into the fray and just plain forget many of the things Christians are actually celebrating. With so many ideas, people, and yes, holidays being ‘cancelled’ by our ‘woke’ society of late, we need to honestly ask, Who has the right to celebrate Christmas? The answer ought to hinge on whether or not you truly know the God of the Bible. If you don’t know Him – or aren’t sure – then is Christmas really for you to observe?
God is real. He is not a myth. He was there at the beginning of everything. God is the author and creator of all things living or inanimate, be it stars, horses, tulips, or human beings. But even children understand that none of these last forever. All things break down and die. For despite the generosity of God who is perfect, all-powerful, and good, His wise admonitions to man went ignored, His commands were disobeyed. Therefore, death entered the world and spread to all men as all then became guilty of sin (this is proclaimed in the Bible in Genesis 3 and Romans 5:12). Because of sin, the perfect manifestation of life on earth was cursed by God and plunged into an agonizing cycle of dying and death; it was unable to be rescued by any amount of contrition by man. We forgot that God is life and to be with Him is to live; sin alienates and to be alienated from God is to be subject to death.
Although man needed to atone for sin, simply knowing so was of no help to him; for to pay for one’s sin means to die … and death is permanent. We cannot pay for our sins and yet remain alive to live with God face-to-face again. Man’s only hope for a life that lasts would need to come another way, one through newfound mercy and grace from the Author of life. Problem: it was still man’s debt to pay. The answer would have to come from God but still be paid for by man. Enter Jesus Christ.
Jesus of Nazareth was born 2000 years ago in the tiny town of Bethlehem, just a few miles south of Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. The circumstances of His birth are recorded in the Bible in chapter 2 of the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Much of what Christians celebrate every year during Christmas follows from these portions of Scripture, especially the familiar events around the manger, the herald or heavenly angels singing, and the visitation of the Wise Men. We are so familiar with these Christmas stories that sometimes their purpose and significance for humanity – things that anchor the soul of the Christian – can get drowned out in what eventually becomes a holiday of forms without substance. The old adage is likely true here: familiarity breeds contempt. Not that folks hate Christmas, but that they forget the scope of the miracle that God has given us through Jesus His son. Re-consider the following about Jesus …
1. He promised to come and rescue us from our plight
Sin entered the world through Adam in the Garden of Eden. Although death ensued to all men, God graciously promised a deliverer who would one day destroy the works of the Devil. God repeated this promise several times throughout the Bible until Jesus was born (Genesis 3:15; Numbers 24:17; Deuteronomy 18:15; Psalm 2:7-9; Zechariah 9:9; Romans 5:12; Hebrews 2:14).
2. He came down from heaven
Jesus was not from this world. He always existed as God the Son but was sent from Heaven by God the Father into the world to be born of a virgin. This is what Christians refer to as the INCARNATION, the act by which God’s eternal Son “took on” human flesh and dwelt among us. This was foretold by God’s prophets hundreds of years prior to Jesus’ birth (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22-23; John 1:14; John 6:38).
3. He was fully God and fully human
By the incarnation, God the Son did not “lose” part of Himself as God. Scripture makes clear that Jesus remains God the Son. He was also fully human, one who (for purposes of our redemption) did not allow the glory and power of His divine nature to prevent His arrest and execution but went willingly to a physical death. Having both a godly nature and a fleshly, human nature, this is what theologians refer to as the HYPOSTATIC UNION, the combination of both natures without any loss or diminishment of either. Of all the miracles ever recorded, Jesus the person is the greatest miracle ever witnessed by the world. There is and has never been anyone else like Him. He is the GOD-MAN (Romans 5:8; Phil 2:6:11).
4. He was sinless
Although Jesus possessed a human nature, was tempted as we are, was unjustly attacked and persecuted by His enemies, and was mercilessly executed on a cross, He never sinned. God cannot sin. Jesus’ life was devoid of anything outside of pure obedience to God’s will. (John 19:4; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 3:5).
5. He absorbed the wrath intended for us
Jesus died when Roman officials executed Him. The Bible tells us that Jesus’ willingly offered Himself as a sacrifice of atonement to satisfy the punishment (or wrath) that we deserved for our sins. Our punishment was placed onto Him. Bible teachers call this act of absorbing and satisfying the wrath of God PROPITIATION, something that only the god-man could do for us (Luke 23:20-47; Romans 3:25; 1 Peter 2:24; Hebrews 9:14).
6. He is someone to place your faith in
Jesus’ sacrifice was offered to God to save men from their sins. The only requirement God has for us is to believe on Jesus, the Son of God who endured the cross, was resurrected, and is alive forevermore. If we trust in Him, God who raised Jesus’ body from the dead promises to raise our bodies too. We do not need to fear death, but only trust in the Author and Perfector of our faith, Jesus Christ. This faith is a gift of God given to us by His grace alone (John 6:29; Romans 8:11; Ephesians 2:8-9; Hebrews 12:2).
7. He is the only way to escape death
The Bible says that faith in Jesus is the only means to receive forgiveness of sin, to be reconciled back to God, and to escape judgment, eternal condemnation, and death. God has provided a way. We just need to trust Him and accept this free gift of salvation (Acts 4:10-12; 1 Timothy 2:5-6).
What shall we say then with all this Biblical evidence? Jesus is the way back to God, the truth about God, and the one who renews our lives for God – no one can access God except through Him (John 14:6).
The Bible is clear. If you ignore Jesus, a second chance will not be given to reconcile with God before you die. Someone might say “what do mean by ‘ignore’?” Those who understand the story of Jesus, who “identify as a Christian”, but who have failed to completely yield their lives to Him. Instead, they have chosen a life of self-centered hedonism. Seeking their own path, their lives are lived for their own desires and are devoid of anything holy or consonant with God’s Word. They will indeed find that life comes to an irreversible and tragic end forever. For no other sacrifice for sin has been given to us, no other opportunity will be made available to satisfy the wrath of God (Hebrews 10:26).
If this characterizes people you know – even those who regularly attend church services – then ask them point blank, “So why do you celebrate Christmas? Do you have a relationship with Christ, and if not (or if you’re not sure) then is it proper for you to join in on the various holiday festivities with everyone else?” This should give them pause to stop and reflect on the true wonder and majesty of what God did for them 2000 years ago.
Remember, God intervened! He did not leave us helpless to just die in our sins. Today is the day of salvation. Take His offer of forgiveness. Don’t ignore it. Share these truths with your unsaved family and friends. Who knows, perhaps through God’s mercy, some of them may get to genuinely celebrate Christmas for the 1st time this year. For the rest of us, remember to take time to reflect on the implications of the baby in the manger. The same message applies: Don’t forget, God intervened, although He didn’t have to. Since He chose to act, take time to express the thankfulness and adoration due our loving Creator God, the One waiting to welcome you home in the end. There’s no better place to be than home for this holiday.
Gregory Alderfer, Member of the Communications Committee