As Western culture becomes more secular and anti-Christian, it is increasingly difficult to uncover the true meaning of Christ’s birth into the world. When I became a Christian nearly thirty five years ago, I found for the first time the wonder, joy and true meaning of Christmas.
I discovered that the birth of Christ was about the gospel, God’s glorious plan to redeem a people for himself. God sent his Son to become the Saviour of all he had chosen to give to his Son. Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the great events that led up to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins.
Recently, I watched a debate on television between a Muslim cleric and a Christian theologian. They were debating the deity of Christ. It was very sad to hear the Muslim doing his best to pull Jesus Christ down from his throne of glory and to strip him of his deity. He did his best to present Christ as just a man and a prophet. In my opinion, he failed completely.
The debate centred around the person and claims of Jesus Christ. If Jesus was just a man, then we who worship him do so in error. Our Christmas holiday is a silly fiction with no true meaning at all.
This reminds me of what the apostle Paul wrote to the people at Corinth: ‘If Christ was not raised [from the dead] your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins’. If Jesus was not God come in the flesh, if he is not the Messiah, then there is hope for none of us. We are left with empty and meaningless illusions. We will die in our sins.
But the Bible presents to us several things about the Lord Jesus that we cannot ignore or escape. First, we are told prophetically about the person of Christ. In Isaiah 9:6 we read: ‘For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace’.
Here, many centuries before the birth of Christ, his person and character are beautifully described. The Messiah is the promised Son who is given for our sins. Only Jesus Christ measures up to what Isaiah reveals in this marvellous verse.
Second, in Matthew 1:21, the mission of Christ is described: ‘And she shall bring forth a son, and you shall call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins’. In this text an angel reveals to Mary’s husband Joseph, both what the mission and the accomplishment of the Messiah would be. The Messiah, identified as Jesus, had come to save God’s people from their sins.
The angel tells Joseph that this divine mission will be successful. Jesus will save all those he came to redeem. The messenger does not say that Jesus will merely make salvation possible, but that he will actually save those for whom he came to die.
The message of Christmas is about Christ. It is about the coming of God’s precious Son to die on the cross for our sins; to grant forgiveness and eternal life to those who deserve only God’s wrath and punishment.
As the culture around us becomes increasingly hostile to the Christian message, and makes it more difficult for the followers of Christ to express their faith openly, it is nonetheless important that the church should share the good news of Jesus Christ with the world.
The world needs to know that the only way to have peace with God, the only way to be accepted by a holy God, the only way to have eternal life, is through the great Christ-centred events of history. It is for this reason that we need to explain, to the culture around us, the meaning of the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ.
Christmas is not just a special holiday to feast and meet with family and friends. It is about Christ. It is a time to proclaim his person, his mission, and what he accomplished at the cross.
These great themes are well set forth in a hymn by James Montgomery (1819):
Bright and joyful is the morn;
For to us a Child is born;
From the highest realms of heaven
Unto us a Son is given.
On his shoulders he shall bear
Power and majesty – and wear
On his vesture and his thigh,
Names most awful, names most high.
Wonderful in counsel he;
The incarnate Deity,
Sire of Ages ne’er to cease;
King of Kings, and Prince of Peace.
Come and worship at his feet,
Yield to Christ the homage meet;
From his manger to his throne,
Homage due to God alone.