Christmas: The Christian Viewpoint
Words of Life!
Volume 5, Number 5
by Fred G. Zaspel
I for one enjoy the many traditions that have come to be associated with Christmas in our society. These traditions all combine to make the season a happy one, one which generally finds us more festive and generous and kind. I am not at all one of those voices calling for the removal of these very harmless and enjoyable Christmas pleasures.
But of course, the significance of what we call "Christmas" is much deeper than any of these things. It is the celebration of a birthday, the birthday of Jesus in Bethlehem. The story of Joseph and the virgin Mary and the baby Jesus and the Shepherds and the Magi -- and Herod! -- is a familiar one to most Americans. And well it should be: never in history was there another virgin who conceived and gave birth to a child! It is truly a remarkable event.
But still, the significance of Christmas is deeper than even that. The remarkable thing is this: Jesus' birth was not the beginning of his existence! To put it another way, His origin is not at all related to His birth.
If that is a bit difficult to understand, don't feel alone. But this is precisely what the Scriptures tell us. In fact, it was a prophet of Israel by the name of Micah who said that this one to be born in Bethlehem is one "whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." That is, He comes to enter time from eternity.
Now clearly, this language is quite inappropriate in reference to any mere human. The prophet Micah was very emphatically affirming the fact that Jesus is not a man merely: He is God. He is God come as man.
This, and nothing less, is the significance of Christmas. It is more than a story of a baby. It is the story of how the eternal God became a baby!
This is an event that is unique in history, so significant in fact that we shape our calendar by it -- B.C. and A.D. And that is as it should be. All of history up to that point was in anticipation of the event. From the time when man fell into sin and ruined paradise, the promise has awaited fulfillment. The promise was first made to Adam and Eve--one of the "woman's seed" would come and destroy the tempter. It was given again to Abraham--in one of his seed "all the world shall be blessed." It was given again to David, Israel's greatest King -- his "greater son" would prosper in peace on his throne forever. And it was in anticipation of this very promise that all of God's people lived.
And so history itself centers on that One who finally came to Bethlehem. He was the fulfillment of Israel's long hopes.
One question remains: the simple question, "Why?" Why in the name of reason would the eternal God become a man? The answer again is found in the promises themselves: He came to be the deliverer, our deliverer from sin.
God's justice requires that sin be punished in all of His creatures. And the punishment required is death. And so left to ourselves we must die -- physically and spiritually and eternally. There is no way around it -- we are unable to save ourselves.
What we need, then, is a Savior--one who would be willing to die in our place. Yet that one must be sinless and Himself undeserving of death. But only God is sinless--and He cannot die! That is, unless He first becomes one of us.
And this is precisely the rest of the story. In Bethlehem God became man in order to die on that cross for men in punishment for their sins. In so doing, He became our Savior. He came to bear the condemnation of His own law, the law which condemned us.
Christmas, then, marks an epochal event in God's calendar of redemption. He promised to save, and that first Christmas was the outworking of that promise.
It is all summed up in those familiar words of John 3:16. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
No, we don't mind the traditions at all. But the thoughts that reach our hearts are these. Christmas is the greatest love story ever told. It is a story of the greatest love ever given. And it is the story of the greatest Gift--the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior.