Amidst the busyness of your Christmas preparations, there will certainly be constant calls to remember “the reason for the season.” These calls are absolutely right and justified, although I fear that they’ve become so frequent that we become callous to the truth within the cries to “Keep Christ in Christmas.” Do people remember the sacredness of the Christmas story, anymore – that it is not simply a “story,” but a piece of history? Has the holiday become so infested with gift wrap and seas of ribbons and bows sprinkled with the occasional reminder to think about Jesus coming into the world that we simply have become complacent? While I hope this is not the case, I want to take this time to recognize the reasons for celebrating Christmas. Let’s take this time to remember why it is worth it to put aside all of the distractions and make Christ the center of not just the season, but our lives.
If you delve into the gospels, you can read several different accounts of the birth of Jesus Christ, beginning with the Holy Spirit’s work in Mary. As the gospels of Matthew and Luke tell us, Mary, a young girl engaged to be married to Joseph, was found to be pregnant by the work of the Holy Spirit. She was to bear a son and call Him Jesus, for, as the angel Gabriel told Mary, “‘He will be great and be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end’” (Luke 1:32-33). Obviously an incredibly overwhelming statement for a young girl to hear, but Mary responded with obedience. The gospels continue to tell us that Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a manger. He was born in the humblest of all places despite being the “Son of the Most High,” and the One who would “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). This is the common “story” we hear at Christmastime with which many are well-acquainted.
In addition to this, I think it would be important to study the effects of Jesus’ birth rather than simply the “story” aspect. Philippians 2:6-11 focuses on Jesus’ humility and obedience, which is central to the celebration of Christmas, and to His life:
“…although [Jesus] existed in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Jesus, though entirely God, did not consider His deity as something to hold onto, or “a thing to be grasped.” Rather, while fully retaining His status as deity, He “emptied Himself” and took on the likeness of men. He willingly sacrificed His own interests and was born in the form of a human baby. Jesus was born in a stable, among animals, which is the complete opposite of the location one would think someone who has “equality with God” would be born. Not only did Jesus come into the earth which He created, but He came in the form of a servant and was born in the lowliest of positions.
Contrary to popular cultural practice, Christmas does not end here. Christmas and Easter (the celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection) are inherently intertwined and must be remembered together. Philippians 2 recounts Jesus’ humility in His birth, as well as in His sacrifice as an adult. He lived in the form of man for thirty-three years, while still fully God, and atoned for the sins of man. His role as the atonement for sin is the reason He became obedient to death on the most brutal of killing machines, a cross. A blood sacrifice untainted by sinful impurities was the price for humanity’s sin, and He paid it on the cross, the epitome of a servant.
We celebrate Christmas not just because Jesus was born, but for the reason why He was born. Jesus came to earth in the form of a baby and lived among men in order to pursue you. In His love and mercy, the Creator saw our depravity and helplessness and came down to us. Instead of calling us to try and live up to His level of godliness, He came to us and humbled Himself to be born in a manger. Instead of calling you to pay the price for your sin, He further humbled Himself and paid it for you. The cost was not cheap; the cost was a pure blood sacrifice, a self-sacrifice, in order to rectify humankind’s relationship with Himself. All we must do in response is accept and strive to live in accordance with His will.