I don’t think I’ve ever looked so forward to Christmas.
2020 has been quite the year, and while I want to be thankful for every day God gives me, looking forward to the hope and joy of Christmas has been a balm in a long season of chaos. The Christmas music has been pulled out earlier than in years past, and I’ve seriously considered putting up decorations about once a week since late September.
In many ways, Christmas punctuates our years, creating a rhythm alongside Easter like the festivals and feasts celebrated by Israel from the time of the Exodus. We celebrate the promised Messiah whom all these festivals and feasts looked forward to, this moment when all of human history changed because of a single birth — the birth of Jesus, the Son of God made flesh.
It seems we resonate more today than in years past (at least in our American context) with those who awaited a Messiah who might come and replace their struggles with joy and who would remove the yoke that crushed them. As we gave upon this coming moment in our year where a baby was born to a virgin in a cattle stall, testified to in the stars and changing the entire course of history, let us remember why the baby is worthy of our surrender and worship.
Christmas isn’t simply a time to enjoy twinkling lights and gift giving; it is a deeply theological time of celebrating the hingepoint of our faith: that our God would dwell among us as a God-man, living perfectly the life we could not live and sacrificing it all so that we might be declared righteous. His birth is important because His life, death, and resurrection would come, and this matters both cosmically and individually.
So, why is Jesus’ birth so significant?
1. Jesus is the Promised Messiah.
The one who would crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15) would be pointed to throughout the narrative of the Law and directly in much prophecy. The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), from the line of Abraham (Genesis 12:3, 22:18), rejected by His own people (Psalm 69:8, Isaiah 53:3), betrayed (Zechariah 11:12), crucified (Isaiah 53:12) as a sacrifice for sin (Isaiah 53:5-12), resurrected (Psalm 16:10, 49:15), and ascended (Psalm 24:7-10). These were the words His people passed from generation to generation and clung to as their source of hope.
Jesus was never Plan B. He was, from the beginning, God’s plan for redemption; the long-awaited Messiah. His birth is not just a special occurrence, it is a divine one. He would be miraculously conceived and yet, commonly delivered to grow and mature and eventually secure our salvation 30-some years later. He was the One God’s people waited on from the very beginning.
2. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets.
Jesus is the last Adam, the perfectly obedient Moses, the rightful Judge, the righteous King, the source of Wisdom, and the Victor over oppression, sin, and death.
Scripture is full of yearning for the coming Messiah throughout the Old Testament. He is foiled in the characters that often lead the story and the answer to the sufferings, foretold in the prescribed rhythms performed by the priests in the temple and the necessary sacrifices, seen in the feasts and festivals.
Jesus fulfilled the instruction given to Adam, securing eternal life for those who trust Him. Jesus leads His people out of the oppression of sin without question or wavering like Moses. He would not deliver us from a political overlord like Egypt (or later Babylon or Assyria), but from the claws of a much darker foe: evil, sin, and death. Jesus is the rightful Judge who is perfectly just, unlike the ups and downs of the time of the judges in Israel. He is the perfect King, ignored when God’s people demanded an earthly king and got Saul. He is the Source of Solomon’s wisdom and the hope in the prophets, often delivering news of devastation due to disobedience, but not without the hope of a coming Messiah who would right wrongs. He is the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets, present as the scarlet thread throughout the narrative of Scripture.
3. Jesus is Immanuel, “God with us.”
Jesus became flesh. God the Son laid down the glories of heaven for the rags of earth so that He might be with His people, living a perfectly obedient life, swapping our record for His in His work on the cross. This is love.
Jesus revealed God more clearly to us as the image of the visible God. He is the Word made flesh, the embodiment of what God has been communicating to Himself all along. We often focus on His death and resurrection, but we must also focus on His life. In Him, we too have lived a perfect life. In Him, we have been made right through the sacrifice on the cross. Our life for His. His righteousness for our rags. He is God with us, understanding the human experience because He lived it, dwelling with us. The God of the universe dwelled with us, and will one day dwell with us face-to-face eternally.
He has come! He has come for us! And He will come for us. Hallelujah. He is the Promised Messiah, the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets, and Immanuel, God with Us.