In the U.S., the commercialization of holidays is now commonplace. Retail sales this year alone are projected to eclipse $700 billion. It’s easy to get swept up in the deals, sales, and bargains that make this time of year one of the best times for shoppers. While giving and receiving gifts isn’t inherently a bad thing to do, it can distract us from the greatest gift we can receive this season. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, but that can get lost in the gifts and parties that this time of year brings. So, why do we celebrate Christmas? And why does it still matter?
Because Jesus was more than a baby.
Yes, the Christmas story is central to the Christian faith. Dr. David Teitelbaum from Christ Chapel Bible Church outlines many of the prominent prophecies that foretell the details of the birth of Christ. In these scriptures, we see that:
- Abraham’s descendants would bless all the nations on the earth (Genesis 22:18)
- Jesus will come from the line of Jacob (Number 24:17)
- Jesus will be a direct descendent of King David (Isaiah 11:11, Jeremiah 23:5-6, Samuel 7:12-13)
- Jesus will be born in the town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)
- He will be born of a virgin and be given the name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14)
- After his birth, he would be worshipped by shepherds from the desert, and kings would present gifts to him (Psalm 72:9-10)
- King Herod would try to kill him (Jeremiah 31:15)
- And he would hide in Egypt until King Herod dies (Hosea 11:1)
All of these scriptures are fulfilled with the birth of Christ, but that’s just where the story begins. Matthew 1:21 (ESV) tells us that Mary will give birth to a son, and “call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” The accounts of Jesus’ life in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, share the good news that anyone who believes in Jesus “shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).
How is this possible? It’s possible because the baby who was born to Mary in the town of Bethlehem bore our sins on the cross, “so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24 NIV).
Because we still need Jesus today.
What was the purpose of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us (John 1:14)? “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17 NIV). And Jesus himself tells us in John 14:6 (NIV) that he is “ the way and the truth and the life. [And that] no one comes to the Father except through [him].”
Our sin separates us from God to the point that God’s face is hidden from us (Isaiah 59:2 NIV). But “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV). Christ’s once-and-for-all sacrifice for sin may have happened in the past, but that gift continues to cover those who believe in him with grace that we are still in desperate need of today.
Because he is coming back.
Jesus is more than a historical figure from the past. After Jesus rose from the dead and revealed himself to the disciples, he “was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19 ESV). And we don’t know the day or hour when he will return (Matthew 24:36). But we do know that “the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command …. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 ESV). In short, Jesus is alive and well in heaven as we speak today. And someday, he will return.
You might think that this encroaches on the territory of the Easter holiday, which is a day to remember the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. However, if we remember the birth of Christ, we must remember his life. And if we remember his life, we must remember his sacrifice that conquered sin and death. And that victory demands that we live in light of his future return. “[Jesus] will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28b NIV). Understanding that Christ was more than just a baby, is alive today, and is coming back, enables us to see the full picture of his majesty.
We hope you have a wonderful Christmas season celebrating the birth of our Savior with family and friends. When you’re enjoying all this season has to offer, don’t forget the significance of a baby boy who came to earth to give us the opportunity to spend eternity with him. Merry Christmas!