The Significance of Christmas

Christmas is the celebration and commemoration of the incarnation of Christ.

“Merry Christmas!” is the common greeting this time of year. Cash registers are ringing, websites are bustling, everybody is spending money and buying gifts with no consideration for why they are doing so. Sure, Christmas has been commercialized; we are a capitalistic society after all. But there seems to be an ethos in the air this time of year that is different than any other. It is the one time, that I can think of, where people are looking to give more than they are looking to receive. This is not by accident.

I have written previously about whether Christmas is a holiday or holy day, so I won’t debate that here, but it is important to note that there could be no Christmas without Christ. Jesus truly is the reason for the season. Now, there are those who seek to strike Him from the record by substituting “Happy Holidays!” or “Merry X-mas!”—which only accentuates the significance of the birth of Christ.

The Gift of Jesus

Jesus is God’s gift to humanity. He came wrapped in human flesh and swaddling clothes, but beneath His wrappings exist the eternal Son of God. Theologically, we refer to this event as the Incarnation. It describes “the act whereby the eternal Son of God took to Himself an additional nature, humanity, through the virgin birth.”[1] That is, the Son of God who eternally existed, otherwise He could not be God, chose to also become human so that He might deliver humanity from the penalty of sin, which is death – spiritual and physical (Rom. 8:3–4).

There was only one problem: because of Adam’s disobedience, every person born into this world inherits a sin nature, making it impossible to meet God’s moral and ethical requirements. Thus, the Son of God needed a human body minus the sin nature that comes with being human. The Father’s plan was that the Holy Spirit would supernaturally impregnate a virgin by the name of Mary, thereby bypassing the human seed that would typically come from the biological father and allow for the Son of God to have a human soul and body without taking on humanity’s sin nature (Luke 1:34–35).

Consequently, Joseph, the husband of Mary, is Jesus’s stepfather and not his biological father; for Joseph did not have intercourse with Mary until after Jesus’s birth (Matt. 1:25). Thus, God remains Jesus’s spiritual Father and Mary His biological mother—the first recorded case of in vitro fertilization, not by medical science but by a miracle of the Spirit.
Christ and Christmas

On the night of Jesus’s birth, an angel appeared to a group of shepherds and shared with them the wonderful news about the greatest gift that humanity would every receive. Luke records this event in Luke 2:10–11 NASB: “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’”

There are three important principles that this Scripture teaches us about Christmas.

1. Christmas is good news. This time of year elicits any number of negative responses—fear, frustration, denial, depression, anger—but the truth is, the birth of Christ is “good news” that should provoke “great joy.” Today, our televisions, newspapers, and electronic devices are filled with bad news—war, car jackings, robberies, homicides, death, and destruction. If there is anything we could use more of, it is good news. That is exactly what this season brings to us.

During the time of Jesus’s birth, good news included the proclamation of empire-wide celebrations of the Roman emperor, especially his birthday.[2] Though, Jesus was born over 2,000 years ago, His birth offers more joy than anyone or anything in this world could ever provide. To borrow from a similar refrain, it’s good news because it’s God’s news! The Heavenly Tribune reminds us each December, before the close of a possibly difficult year, that there is still something for everyone to be joyous about: a Savior was born.

2. Christmas is for everyone. The birth of Christ is not just good news because of the event; it is also good news because His birth is for every human. Jesus is the only gift in human history that can be given to everybody (John 3:16). A few of us can relate to not having received a Christmas gift from someone, but Jesus is the Father’s gift to each and every one of us. No one is excluded or left out. No one has to leave feeling less than anyone else, because we can all enjoy Jesus. It’s like Oprah’s Favorite Things: you get a gift, he gets a gift, she gets a gift, they get a gift; we all get Jesus!

During Christmas, we are given the opportunity to celebrate and worship Jesus for His selfless and saving act of becoming human (Matt. 2:11). For the “mas” in Christmas refers to the act of commemorating and celebrating Jesus’s birth. So, when we give gifts to others, we are all commemorating God’s gift to us in the Person of Jesus Christ.[3]  
  
3. Christmas is about Christ. There can be no Christmas without Christ because He is the Father’s gift of salvation to humanity. He was born to be our Savior. Because of Adam’s disobedience, humanity was being held hostage by our natural inclination to violate God’s moral and ethical code and by our inevitable physical death (Rom. 5:12–14). Jesus’s birth, His incarnation, was God’s response to rescue us from our captivity. Thus, the only Person who had the moral purity and spiritual power to save us became human to rescue us from the power of sin and death (Gal. 4:4–5). This is why Jesus is called the Christ. “It signifies his office as anointed Savior and alludes to his spiritual qualifications for the task of saving his people.”[4]

Only Jesus could meet the qualifications necessary to save us—holy and all-powerful, yet fully human. He is the God-man who serves as the chosen Mediator between God and mankind (1 Tim. 2:5–6). Therefore, Christ cannot be removed from Christmas, because it is all about Him.

A Very Special Christmas

This Christmas will be a very special Christmas, not because of the mistletoes, trimmed trees, or blazing firesides; but because of the Person and purpose that make it special. Jesus, our Savior, was born into this world to offer us the incomparable gift of eternal life—the benefits of which include spending eternity with Him in the new heaven and new earth to come (Rev. 21:1–4). Now, if that isn’t special, I don’t know what is.


Rev. Isaac Hayes is an Assistant Pastor at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, Illinois, and author of Men After God’s Heart: 10 Principles of Brotherly Love. He is also a doctoral student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Follow Rev. Hayes on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @RevIsaacHayes.
  [1] Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1989), 222.
[2] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Lk 2:10–12.
[3] Robert Green, “Mass: Christian Religious Service,” Britannica, last modified October 2, 2023, https://www.britannica.com/topic/mass-Christian-religious-service.
   [4] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Christ,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 431.

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