Almost 30 years ago, our family suffered one of the most difficult tragedies that can occur… the loss of a child. During that time and even today, people often ask, “How did you handle that?” My answer, “We couldn’t… at least not without hope.” I have attended and done many funerals where there wasn’t that hope. The hopeful and the hopeless both mourn when someone precious is amputated from their life. But for the believer, we have a measure of assurance like King David when mourning the loss of his own child said, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:23)
Now I realize that there have been very sophisticated attempts recently to show that faith is not based on the reality of God outside of us, but are the basis of the creation of the idea of God inside of us. In other words people like Golden Compass author, Philip Pullman, atheist, Richard Dawkins, and the German philosopher Ludwig Feurbach are all telling us that God is not a reality outside of us that we can trust and obey; instead He is a projection of our own needs onto reality or something created by an institution to rob us of our identity. In other words, God does not create us, we create God.
Their logic is based upon the sense of loss in our lives causes us to create a God to believe in. The reality is, the loss of a child would be unbearable without hope in an afterlife. And so over time, God is created to sustain that hope. God has no other reality other than what we create for Him.
That is the question every one of us faces every Christmas. Is this story of the Son of God coming as a human, born of a virgin, living a life of sinless love, and dying for sinners that all who believe might have eternal life, true? Is this story a creation of human imagination because we need it to be true? Or is it true, and therefore we need to believe it?
For Christians, death is bearable because there is hope. But is that the impulse for creating an imaginary Christmas story? Or is that viewpoint an impulse created by the reality of the Christmas story? The answer to that question is more important than anything you will think about this Christmas or for that matter, all the rest of your life. Does our sense of need for God and forgiveness, help and hope cause us to create God? Or do we have all those needs because we were in fact created by God and have rebelled against Him?
One of the ways to go about answering that question is to listen patiently to the different testimonies from the Bible about why the Son of God came into the world. You see, I believe this book is inspired by God and is therefore very powerful to prove its own truthfulness. It is like a two-edged sword that penetrates to the division of bone and marrow. And when people give it a chance the result is often that not believing what it says becomes a moral impossibility. Its testimonies are too penetrating, its witnesses too diverse, its insights too high, its vision of divine things too wonderful, its authority too compelling, its love too rare, its Savior too radical that it should be the mere creation of sinful men.
As we move into this Christmas season, I want us to listen to six of the witnesses to His coming, life and ministry and let them testify to why the Son of God came into the world. The witnesses are Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul and the writer to the Hebrews. Their testimony gives us six reasons for Jesus’ coming. As we look at them, we need to ask, “Do they fit our needs because they are true?”
The first is Mark. In 10:45 of his gospel account, he writes, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The reason we need a ransom to be paid for us is that we have sold ourselves into sin and have been alienated from a holy God. When Jesus gave His life as a ransom our slave masters, sin and death and the devil, had to give up their claim on us. And the result was that we could be adopted into the family of God.
Paul put it like this in Galatians 4:4-5: “When the time had fully come, God sent forth his son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons.” In other words, the redemption or the ransom frees us to be a part of God’s family. We had run away and sold ourselves into slavery. But God pays a ransom and redeems us out of slavery into the Father’s house.
To do that God’s Son had to become a human being so that He could suffer and die in our place to pay the ransom. That is the meaning of Christmas. Hebrews 2:14 puts it like this, “Since the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared of the same nature that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death.” In other words, the reason Christ took on human flesh was so that He could die and in dying, pay a ransom, freeing us from the power of death.
Secondly, Luke tells us in 5:31-32, “Jesus said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'”
Jesus came to call sinners to repentance. First there needed to be a ransom to be paid for sinners. Then there could be a successful call to sinners. The call is based on the ransom. Jesus says He came for both of these things. He does not leave the ransoming or the calling to others. He ransoms and He calls. Even today He is calling all through the Bible and through the preaching of the Bible. That is the meaning of Christmas. He came to call sinners.
Thirdly, we read in John 9:39: “Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see.” And John 12:46, “I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me might not remain in darkness.”
Jesus did not merely come to ransom and to call, he also came to open people’s eyes so that they can see the light and walk in it. Our problem is not just slavery needing a ransom, and lostness needing a call, our problem is also moral blindness, needing the gift of sight. Look at how our society lives. We are simply blind to some spiritual realities that are utterly crucial to see and embrace. This is why Christ came: that those who do not see may see. This is the meaning of Christmas.
This next one is a little controversial. Matthew tells us in 10:34, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household.”
The point of this word is not that God loves division and strife. The point is that strife and division caused by true allegiance to Jesus are better than no strife and division with no allegiance to Jesus. When a person is ransomed and called and given sight something really radical happens to them.
I experienced that in my life just as many others have. When the truth is revealed to them, they see everything differently with that new sight. When they respond to God’s sovereign call and are freed from fear and guilt because of that sufficient ransom, their lives are guided by a new Master. This means they begin to think differently and feel things differently and act differently. And for some in the family, that can be very threatening, and so tension develops. For this Jesus came into the world. That too is the meaning of Christmas.
Fifth, John tells us in 3:17-18, “For God sent not the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. He who believes in him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already.”
Sometimes this is a difficult one to swallow, but God sent his Son to save us from His own just condemnation and wrath. The need for salvation implies that there is a danger we need to be saved from. That danger is sin and death and the devil. But the most serious danger of all is the danger of the condemnation of God. If God is for us, then sin and death and the devil will fail to destroy us. But if God is against us, then nothing can save us.
Christmas, the coming of Jesus is God’s way of saving us. Again, as verse 18 states, “He who believes is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already.”
Lastly, we have the wonderful promise of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Christmas means that God sent his Son so that we could believe and have eternal life.
All of us, at various times in our lives, suffer whether physically, emotionally or spiritually. Christmas gives us hope in the midst of it. The hope we look to is eternal life. And that life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ. John 6:40 says, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” Christmas is about hope.
Christmas is a wonderful time of celebration – the gathering of friends and family, in the sharing of drinks, meals, and gifts. But let us not forget the true meaning of Christmas, that God sent His Son, to be born of the Virgin Mary, live a perfect and sinless life, and to die a cruel death on a cross, so that we might have hope to live this life and have the assurance of the life to come.
How is this possible for each of us? The Bible teaches we need to believe in Jesus in order to receive this gift of life and to set out in a life that magnifies God and His rich grace as the giver of every good and perfect thing through the power of His Holy Spirit who works in and through us. May this be the reality we experience this Christmas season.