What happened on Christmas?
On the first page of the New Testament we read that an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, telling him not to be afraid to take Mary home as his wife. The angel explained: “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
In very simple but clear terms we are told that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary for the express purpose of saving us from our sins. In Luke 1 we read that the angel Gabriel came to Mary and said to her:” Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” Gabriel went onto explain that by the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit this holy child “will be called the Son of God.”
We call this the incarnation of the Son of God. The Son of God entered Mary’s womb through the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit and he took upon himself her flesh and blood. Therefore Jesus Christ was true man and true God. He was Immanuel, “God with us.”
Significance of Christmas
Later, in John 3, Jesus Christ would explain to Nicodemus how God would do the impossible. What is impossible for man is to be born again. Jesus Christ was not talking about a literal rebirth from a mother’s womb. He was talking about the radical transformation of a person that would die to sin and come to life with a new nature that would live to the praise and glory of God. Man cannot effect such a rebirth no matter how hard or how long he tries. However, this is possible with God. Through the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ people are justified and sanctified: their sins are washed away and they are born again.
So loved the world
Jesus Christ then explains to Nicodemus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) It is remarkable that God loves the world. It is true that God created the world and made it perfect. But man corrupted it by the fall into sin. So how can God love it? And why would He want to save man and take him back as his sons and daughters? It seems a mystery. But Paul addresses this in Romans 5 where he writes: “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
God’s love is utterly unique. It has no earthy parallel. Even though we were sinners, God’s love led Him to give up his Son to come into this world and to die for the ungodly.
Gave his Son
The incarnation of the Son of God is not a small matter. The image of the baby Jesus lying in a manger can lull a person into idyllic emotions without any real substance. We cannot afford to do that. Listen to Paul’s explanation of the incarnation of Jesus Christ in Philippians 2: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!”
Jesus Christ came from heaven and He would return to heaven. But it would be a journey during which He would take the sins and curse of his people on Himself. He would go to the cross, entering the darkness of the eternal death, suffering the full justice of God, experiencing an agony in his heart and soul that would make Him cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
God did the unthinkable. God did the unimaginable. Who of us would give up a son to die for those who hated us and hurt us? But so deep is the Father’s love for us that He gave up his Son to die for us. And the Son willingly went to the cross for us. Why? It was God’s will to save us even at this incredible cost so that He might restore us as his children and have us for eternity.
Jesus Christ not only said that the love of God led to giving up his Son as the Saviour of the world, but, “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Clearly, salvation in Jesus Christ is not an automatic thing. For instance, church membership does not save a person. There needs to be a very real, living, personal faith in Jesus Christ in order to be saved.
These are the thoughts that need to be going through our minds at Christmas time. In fact, this should always be on our minds. Right now we might be having a lot of festivities and celebrations as family and friends. But let us cling to the real reason for our celebration. As we get together with family and friends, let’s take time to read the Bible, to talk and pray, to sing psalms and hymns, and to reflect on the awesome gift of God to us: He gave his Son to die for us so that we may have life with Him eternally. Have a true and merry Christmas.
Rev. R.Aasman is minister of the Providence Canadian Reformed Church at Edmonton,Alberta
Exerpted from Clarion, The Canadian Reformed magazine, Volume 57, Year End Issue 2009