Christmas was not always celebrated. Before Jesus was born there was no such event known in the world. Why then is this such an important day? How could one man's birth mean so much to this world? It must be noted that the words Christmas are meant to point to Christ, and not the Roman Catholic mass. Ordinarily, it is a season of joy and festivity, even amongst unbelievers. However, for Christians, it marks the probable date when our Lord Jesus Christ was born. Yet, we do not celebrate it by singing Happy Birthday to Jesus as He gleefully claps. We go back to the Divine records to proclaim why He had to be born. I have set out four reasons that broadly spell out why we celebrate Christmas as Christians.
The Bible in Genesis begins with the declaration, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." The Apostle John seems to make a parallel of this in his gospel prologue, "In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God." This Word, John later narrates, became flesh and dwelt with man. We call this the doctrine of Incarnation. This doctrine is packed with Divine mystery that transcends earth's best minds. In it, we see that a virgin conceived – never knowing a man, Mary gave birth to Jesus. In it, we see that God became a man – Jesus, the Word, "was God" and "became flesh." In it, we see that God did not cease to be God but added the nature of man to Himself - for Christ the babe was worshipped by great wise men and lowly shepherds. In it, we see the redemption of mankind – Immanuel, God with us!
Jesus Christ, the Ruler of the world, had to submit and learn obedience. Why does this matter? In Hebrews 10, we read, "Behold, I have come - in the volume of the book it is written of Me – to do Your will, O God." You notice He first says that He has come. That is, Jesus Christ came into this world. The Creator became a part of creation. And why did He come? In Scripture we find what was written about Him and His purpose on earth. Jesus came to do God's will. He was not seeking to do His own thing but to perform God's pleasure. To accomplish this, he submitted Himself. Jesus obeyed God by submitting to Joseph and Mary throughout His childhood. He submitted to secular authority, though He was the source of all authority. He obeyed God by fulfilling all the requirements of the law – not breaking one commandment. He told His disciples at the well in Samaria that His food was to do the will of God. He lived for God on behalf of His people. In Philippians 2 we read that He "obeyed even to the point of death." His obedience in life since birth and in His death has been counted as our obedience. The obedience of Jesus Christ is the only hope Christians have that they can please God. As J. Gresham Machen said, "Thank God for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it."
Every year, the Old Testament Jews had a day where they were sprinkled with blood. It was called the day of atonement. It was a day when everyone typically had their sins covered by the blood of an innocent victim. This was practiced for centuries in the Jewish Temple. When the Messiah was born 2000 years ago, the angel announced to Mary that His name would be Jesus "because He would save His people from their sins." These sins had separated God and mankind. Man was lost and headed for doom and destruction, for death and the judgment. But thank God that Christ was born. He was born to die. He was born to die for His people. His death would save them from their sins. He had to be born a man for only man could pay the debt of his own sin. Yet, man had no capacity to withstand the full wrath of God. In that feeding trough, God the Creator entered His own creation. On the cross, the God-man suffered, bled and died. Justice was done. Our sins, being placed on Jesus, were punished in Him. However, Christ's righteousness (for He had no sin Himself) was imputed or credited to us. He was made dirty and foul so that we may be made clean and holy! Because Jesus was born and died, we are not condemned when we believe in Him.
Jesus Christ was born into a broken world, a lost world. Though He was perfect in all ways, all others had gone astray. God made man in His image in the beginning. He made man to commune with Him. However, man broke that bond. Man lost the perfect image he was made in. Though he is still born in the image of God, he does not correctly reflect the character and nature of God. Thus, a sour relationship ensued between God and man, because of man's sin. Man was now under the wrath of God. But God is merciful and loving towards mankind. He sent Jesus, His Son to come. Jesus was born of a woman, yet He was without sin. There was no barrier between God and Him. He displayed the true character and nature of God for He was born holy in every sense. In Jesus was to be found all that man lost in the beginning and more. He was born with abundant life in His hands. He was born with an eternal purpose. This purpose was to end in the restoration of man and of the whole world to God. Jesus taught men how to be like Him. Jesus showed men how to be like Him. Jesus displayed unimaginable power over animals, over people, over nature and even over demons. All this was a precursor to what He would ultimately bring, that is, restoration. Christ's own birth brought together men from different parts of the world and from different social statuses. All was a precursor to bringing all things back to Himself. Indeed, as Paul said, "in Him we live and move and have our being." Finally, when the world ends, it is Jesus who will judge the world and put all in their eternal places.
Jesus Christ the Lord was born over 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. He was born of a virgin, supernaturally, according to Scripture. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and as such, the Son of God. He was born of a woman, and as such, the Son of man. He was born in the line of the kings of Judah, being the son of David. Jesus' birth was marked by angels singing praises in the skies to lowly shepherds, a great star leading the (maybe three or ten) wise men to the holy Child to bless Him with gifts and to worship Him, and the Creator of the world taking upon Himself the form of creation. It was the uniting of heaven and earth. This was the great climax of creation, history, and redemption. Jesus came to save His people from their sins. The people were His, but the sins were theirs and that separated them from God. Thus, He had to come and take their sins away from them forever. In so doing He brought reconciliation between mankind and God, so that they would no longer be separated. He would bring final and lasting restoration to people, nature and the entire universe. That is why Jesus was born – for the sake of God and His people. This is good news – Joy to the world.
Joe Mwita Thwagi currently serves as a Pastoral Assistant at Lausanne Free Church, Switzerland. He is married to Melissa and they are blessed with one daughter, Olive.