Charles Spurgeon once said of Christmas: “THE birth of our Lord Jesus Christ into this world is a wellspring of pure, unmingled joy. We associate with his crucifixion much of sorrowful regret, but we derive from his birth at Bethlehem nothing but delight. The angelic song was a fit accompaniment to the joyful event, and the filling of the whole earth with peace and good will is a suitable consequence of the condescending fact. The stars of Bethlehem cast no baleful light: we may sing with undivided joy, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.”
He said: “I do not wonder that the men of the world celebrate the supposed anniversary of the great birthday as a high festival with carols and banquets. Knowing nothing of the spiritual meaning of the mystery, they yet perceive that it means man’s good, and so in their own rough way they respond to it. . . The Birth of Jesus not only brings us hope, but the certainty of good things.” (Spurgeon #1815, The Great Birthday and Our Coming of Age)
And I say Amen to all of that. But should we not be just a bit alarmed that those who know “nothing of the spiritual meaning of the mystery” seem to act as if they know what this holiday is all about. We have all these romanticized images of the manger scene, and folks think if they know that, they know the story.
But there is so much more to this story than that. In fact, this story is not just a story, but part of a much bigger story that God has been telling since the beginning of time. Galatians 4:4-5 says, “But when the fullness of time had 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.”
“The fullness of time” reminds us that this is part of something much bigger than just one night in Bethlehem. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not making light of the birth of God the Son, how could we ever do that? I’m just trying to remind us that it’s not just about a little pink baby in a barn. This is about the Divine Plan of God that has been at work for all eternity past.
It includes creation, the fall, and God’s electing plan beginning in Abraham and his lineage. It includes the foreshadowings in the garden, in the flood, and in the Exodus. Throughout the whole of the Old Testament, God sets up prophets and priests and kings as a foretaste of the coming Messiah who will be prophet and priest and king all rolled up in one. The birth of the babe in a manger is simply the fulfillment of all that God has been doing since the beginning. This story has been going on for thousands of years as God has been working toward this ultimate act of Divine intervention into the story as the Word takes on flesh and dwells among us.
More importantly, the story is about more than a birth; it’s about a death. In the celebration of Christ’s coming, we need to keep in mind that the primary purpose for His coming isn’t found in Bethlehem; it’s found at Calvary.
This story that has been being written for generations and is finding a climax in God’s intervention into history in a remarkable way; this story that is now centering on the coming of God’s Son; this is a story that has a purpose. And that purpose, the reason for the coming of the Son is redemption.
To redeem us. To buy us back; or even to ransom us. This is a word for the marketplace. A transaction is taking place. More specifically it’s a word from the slave market. We are slaves to sin. Verse 3 of Paul’s letter says that we “were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.” This goes back to the beginning of the story as I mentioned earlier. Sin entered the world; and all of creation fell. As a result, man is born into this world under the yoke of slavery. We are in bondage to sin and death. This is the heart of the human problem.
I know there are many who don’t believe mankind has a problem. But the truth is we have a problem of monumental proportions; eternal proportions. We are enslaved to sin, sentenced to death because of that sin. Scripture says the wages of sin is death.
We are under the curse of sin and need to be rescued; ransomed; freed from both the sin and its consequences. And this is what Christmas is all about. God sent His Son to redeem us, to give us the forgiveness and reconciliation we so desperately need. I know we think that’s the Easter story and not the Christmas story. I know you think I’ve got my holidays mixed up. But both Easter and Christmas are part of bigger story God has been telling. And the truth is, Christmas would be completely insignificant without Easter.
God didn’t just send His Son into the World to give us some great images to celebrate in December. He didn’t send His Son so that we could have a reason to decorate trees and buy gifts and do Christmas pageants for our kids to look cute. He sent His Son to redeem us. The babe in a manger came in order that He might grow into a man, live a perfect life, and give that life as a perfect sacrifice for our sin. He came to die. He came to suffer the penalty of sin in our place. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
He came that sinful man alienated from God might find reconciliation; and even more, that we might become the children of God. That He might adopt us as sons. John 1:12 says that those who receive him, who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
And once we come to Christ in faith and find redemption and adoption, we discover that we have become a part of the story of what God is doing. An ongoing story. We are looking forward to that day when our Lord returns and takes us to be with Him. We are looking forward to those heavenly mansions Jesus has promised His children. We are looking ahead to that better country Hebrews speaks of. Looking forward to the continuation of our story which will go on throughout eternity.
The story of Christmas is truly part of an eternal story. It’s a story that God has been writing since the foundation of the world. A story that He continues to write; continues to direct toward the end He has already foretold is coming. A story that includes the redemption of His people; and is ultimately being told for His glory. A story that may begin here, but for those in Christ, one that will never end.
This Christmas, as we look to this central element of the eternal Divine story of redemption, the question we need to consider is: have I found my place in this story? As we celebrate the coming of the Babe of Bethlehem, have we come to grips with the reason for His coming? My prayer is that we never lose sight of the purpose of this story; and that we continue to use the miracle of Christmas to call men, women and children to repentance. This is, after all, the reason for which God took on flesh and made His dwelling among us.