“Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.“
Luke 2:4-20 (NKJV)
It is a story that has been told countless times, the story of the baby born in a manger, visited by shepherds and wise men, given the name Jesus and prophesied to save His people from their sins.
We call it the Christmas story, and during this time of the year you will find it read in thousands of churches and homes, as Christians celebrate the birth of the Savior. Yet what makes this story so special? Why is it so important?
I have been on a journey to study the entire Bible, and last year I finished the Old Testament. That being said, this year the Christmas story has held a whole new specialness to me. When you understand the background, the history that led to the birth of the Christ child, it takes on an entire new meaning.
The Old Testament is full of sinful people. It is packed with God’s wrath on His holy people, of commands and orders for their sanctification. They needed to provide animal sacrifices in order to atone their sins. Yet we see a pattern in the Old Testament – a promise of a coming King who would save the people from their sins. It is planned from the very beginning. God knew that the people would not be able to live perfect blameless lives by their own strength. They are too entangled in their sinful flesh. In the Old Testament He required the blood of sacrificed animals to remove their sin, but there was a coming Lamb who would be the final perfect sacrifice. His blood would provide atonement for the sins of His people forever. (Isaiah 53)
God had made promises to Abraham (Gen 12:3), Isaac (Gen 26:4) and Jacob (28:14) that from their line all peoples of the earth would be blessed. He made a covenant with David that from his line would come the Savior of the world. While none of the men lived to see the fulfillment of these promises, their names are in the genealogy of Jesus. (Matt 1:1-17, Luke 3:23-38). While His genealogy may seem like just a long list of “hard to pronounce” names, you will find all of the stories of these people in the Old Testament. People like Rahab, Boaz, Solomon, and Josiah. All people who were used by God as a part of the bigger picture. The entire Bible leads up to the birth and life of Jesus! It shows how much our humanity desperately needed Jesus to save us from our selves. The more time we spend in the Word, the more we will see this. There are countless prophesies fulfilled by Jesus.
So why is Christmas so important?
- It is important because it is when we celebrate His birth.
- It is important because had He not been born, we would have no hope.
- It is important because He came to die, that we may have eternal life.
- It is important because He was God in the flesh, and shows us who the Father is. (Immanuel, God with us. – Matt. 1:23)
- It is important because He perfectly fulfilled the prophesies.
- It is important because He came to live a perfect and sinless life, so that by His innocent blood we may be set free.
- It is important because by our own works we cannot obtain salvation – He came to make atonement for our sins.
And all of that is something very worth celebrating!
God loved us so much that He would choose to abandon His place in Heaven at His Father’s side to come into our world as a baby. It is the greatest act of love, and is worth the sacrifice and surrender of our entire lives! He took on flesh, He suffered as we suffer, He was tempted as we are tempted, He was mocked and scorned and crucified on a cross although He was innocent, for the glory of God and that we may come to know Him and one day be with Him in Heaven.
For many this week may be full of presents, family dinners, or stories of Santa and elves and reindeer. The beauty of Jesus’ birth is often diminished in todays culture to an hour long church service, or a group of children dressed as farm animals singing “Away in a Manger”, and while these are not inherently bad, He deserves our sole focus!
May we not grow blind to what a sacrifice God made for us. May we not be distracted by all of the materialism + earthly traditions that this time of year brings. May we not lose sight of the reason that He came, to die that we may truly live.
Merry Christmas to each of you, may you never forget the reason for the season.