What is all the hoopla about Christmas anyway? Why make such a fuss? Is it really all that significant?
Here is how the Bible puts it:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
There is much we could say about these great verses, but let me land on just these few.
God became man
We are so accustomed to the Christmas narrative that it rarely surprises us anymore. But the very phrase, ‘the Word became flesh’ should shock us every time we read it. The one who created the world, against whom we had rebelled, left his Heavenly home and entered the mess of our world. Not only ‘coming’ but coming as one of us. This is the truth summed up brilliantly by Charles Wesley, ‘Our God contracted to a span, Incomprehensibly made Man’. That the creator should become like one of us is immense indeed.
God welcomes man
We may (rightly) get lost in the wonder of God entering our world, but no less wondrous is his reason for doing so. We could land on the imagery of light here if we wanted, but v12 puts it clearly enough: ‘to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God’. God, in the person of Jesus Christ, entered our world so that we might be adopted into his family. He put himself out, gave up his rights, went to great cost so that we might be called his children. I am told the adoption system can be hard to navigate and does not always make it easy for would-be adoptive parents, but no adoption system on earth comes close to this. God entered our world, gave up the expression of his divine attributes for all eternity, went to the cross and bore the curse of our sin so that we might be adopted by the Heavenly Father. It is a wonder that Jesus came; it is all the more wondrous why Jesus came.
God gives grace
Unlike just about every other religion on earth, God did not send Jesus into the world in order to help us lead nice moral lives. Nor did he send Jesus in order that he might tell us more clearly how he is to be obeyed. Instead, Jesus was sent in order to dispense ‘grace upon grace’. The perfect law of God had already been given through Moses; it was a law that nobody was, is or ever will be able to keep perfectly. Jesus, by contrast, came to bring grace and truth. He alone was able to keep the righteous demands of God’s law. He alone was able to act as a substitute on behalf of God’s people. He alone fulfilled the Old Covenant and instilled a New Covenant in his blood. Jesus did not come to enforce the rules, he came to dispense grace. He came so that by believing, not working hard or doing more, we might have life in his name. God entered our world, took our curse and gives us his grace.
There is much we could say about the importance of Christmas but these three things are key to its importance. God himself entered our world to clean our mess and to grant us life in his name. He came so that we might be set free from our sin and raised to new life with him. The heart of Christmas is the gospel – the very reason for God entering our world – the promise that God will ransom his people, fulfil the law that we couldn’t keep and grant us the grace we couldn’t earn so that we might be adopted into the family we could never join and spend eternity in the life that we could not live.
That is why we celebrate.