To make sense of any historic event, the classic questions of who, what, when, where, how and why should be asked. The Christmas event is no different.
The “who” of Christmas is easy enough to answer: Christ himself is the “who” of Christmas (though we sometimes lose sight of that in the contemporary hustle and bustle of the season!).
The “what” of Christmas is likewise easy to answer: the “what” of Christmas, is the birth of Christ. The “when” of Christmas? Almost two thousand years ago.
The “where” of Christmas? Bethlehem. The “how” of Christmas? Christ miraculously born of a virgin.
But what about the “why” of Christmas? Among all of these fundamental questions, it seems to me that this is the one which is the most widely unasked and unexplored. Scripture, however, provides us the answer to the “why” of Christmas.
Succinctly, in 1 Timothy 1:15, Paul writes “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” To save sinners: this is the “why” of Christmas. In fact, the very name “Jesus” means “God saves.” As the angel instructed Joseph in Matthew 1:21, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
What is sin? One of Scriptures most concise definitions of sin is found in 1 John 3:4 — “sin is lawlessness.” Or, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it, “Sin is any lack of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God.” Sin is violating God’s moral law (as summarized in the 10 Commandments), which reveals his holy character and his holy will for his image bearers. Scripture makes clear that we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). All of humanity is guilty of sin.
The glorious news of Christmas is that Jesus saves his people from the condemnation of sin. When we trust in Christ, we are trusting that he bore our sins and was condemned in our place, that he underwent the wrath of a holy and just God that we deserve.
As the Christmas carol “What Child is This?” so eloquently puts it, “Nails, spear shall pierce Him through; the cross be borne for me, for you.” Christ bore our sins, bore the Cross, and bore the wrath of God that he might save his people from the eternal condemnation our sins deserve. Gloriously, “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
Jesus also saves his people from the alienation of sin. Sin alienates us from God, but in Christ we are adopted as children of the Heavenly Father. Galatians 4:4-6 summarizes the good news of Christmas as follows: “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. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’”
Finally, Jesus saves his people from the pollution of sin. Through his Spirit, which indwells each believer, Christ sanctifies his people, granting us victory over sin by the power of his Cross and resurrection life. Ultimately, we will spend eternity with him in glory, and we will be done with sin forever!
In closing I wish to ask you: “Have you received the Gift of Christmas?” Have you confessed your sin to the Lord Jesus and asked him to save you from sin’s condemnation, alienation and pollution? I bid you to do so today. If you do, you will indeed have a merry Christmas, full of the joy of him whose name is Jesus.
Mantle Nance is the pastor of the Newberry Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (newberryarp.org). He holds a bachelor of arts degree in religion from Furman University and a Master of Divinity from Reformed Theological Seminary. He is a Ph.D candidate in theology at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. He lives in Newberry with his wife and two sons.