She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). — Matthew 1:21-23
In many ways we can become so familiar with the Christmas story that it hardly moves us at all. We get more caught up in the celebrations, TV specials or just the nostalgia of it all than what the event actually means.
Society tells us that Christmas is all about love, peace, joy. Ironically, Christ himself is regarded almost as an accessory. Nice but unnecessary. Christmas, however, was a history changing and universe changing event. The baby born in a manger is referred to as Immanuel. That name does not mean “love with us” or “peace with us” but “God with us.”
The simple meaning of Christmas is that the Creator King of the universe has become a human being. As a well-known carol states: “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail incarnate deity.” That’s the message of Christmas. Everything else is secondary. Jesus is not just a good man, a great teacher or prophet. He is God in flesh.
This is why he would make claims like being without sin, that he came from heaven and that he had the authority to forgive sins. His disciples and other followers — those who lived with him, ate with him, observed and listened to him — came to believe this about him. They even worshipped him as God, which was unthinkable seeing as how they were Jewish.The LAST people who would ever worship a man as God would be Jews. That would have been seen as blasphemy and punishable by death, unless Jesus actually was God. Remarkably, Jesus received their worship.
Why does God become human? Joseph, the human father of Jesus, was told that he was to name the baby Jesus because he would “save his people from their sins.” Jesus didn’t come to be an example but savior.
This sets Christianity apart from every other religion. Every other religion says, “Our founder is a great teacher, and morality and goodness are enough to reach God.” They all may have different sets of morals, but they all say morality and goodness are enough. Christianity, on the other hand, says, “Our situation is so dire and desperate that morality and goodness will never be enough. The unique Son of God himself had to come and die for us. We have to put all of our hope and rest and trust in him.”
Whereas some might object and say that that is exclusive and narrow the reality is that it is simply a radically different diagnosis of humanity’s problem. Christ and Christianity say our core problem is not ignorance, society or bad government, but sin. Sin results in misery, conflict, emptiness, shame and despair. The only remedy for sin is salvation.
The message and meaning of Christmas is that Jesus Christ — Immanuel, “God with us” — came into the world and lived the life we should have lived, died the death we should have died, and rose from the dead so that you and I could be forgiven and accepted by God. For those who believe, the result is the peace, love and joy we are longing for.
“Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King!”
Dave Bootsma is a pastor at Free Grace Presbyterian Church (www.freegracevernon.com).