When it comes to thinking about Christmas it is easy to get wrapped up (literally) in the hustle and bustle-the presents, the dinners, seeing family and friends, parties, the decorations, and the traditions. It is also easy to focus on the things that really don’t matter about the Christmas story such as the fact that Mary and Joseph were not out in a barn but were in a relatives house. Or the fact that the three kings (if three is even the correct number) arrived much later than the birth night.
While it was most certainly not a silent night with family members aiding Mary as she gave birth, it was the most special night in the history of the world. On this night, baby Jesus cried and experienced for the first time the dependency upon his mother for food, warmth, and love. This night was special because it was the night of Incarnation. The incarnation is the event where the God who created the world would took upon himself the fullness of humanity. God was experiencing his creation in a whole new way.
It is not just significant that Jesus was born of a virgin, it was significant that the Lord of all who holds the universe together was at the same time, lying in the arms of a mother who had been chosen by God the Father to bring about the redemption of all of humanity.
The incarnation is significant because Jesus was fully-God and fully-man. He did not give up his deity, but he took upon humanity in its completeness. He would know hunger, pain, tiredness, toil, strained relationships, emotional turmoil, the loss of friendship, temptation, and all that comes with being in a family.
In order for God to rescue humanity from sin, a sacrifice had to be made. The animals the Jews had sacrificed in the past were only able to make a covering for sin. They could not fully atone for sin, because the animals did not bear the image of humanity. Humans are created in the image of God and therefore they are not like the animals. Similar…sure, but not the same. As a result the only way to atone for sin once and for all was to have a human sacrifice. But just like with the animals, that human had to be without blemish…he had to be perfect in every way. Unfortunately, no person is without sin and so all people are tarnished and unable to be a perfect sacrifice for our sins. Because God loved his creation he decided to himself become the human who would be sacrificed to atone for our sins.
God the Father planned to send Christ into the world for this purpose even before he created humanity and put Adam in the Garden. Christ came as God in the flesh to be our sacrifice. He was born of Mary in a small insignificant town. He was the Messiah (the Savior) of the whole world, but he was not what people expected him to be. They wanted the Messiah to be a political leader, instead Jesus came as a spiritual teacher. He did not set-up an earthly kingdom with a limited reign, instead he established his heavenly kingdom so that he would eventually be recognized as the Lord of All.
The incarnation, the event of God becoming flesh was the beginning of God himself going to the Cross on our behalf in order to bring us back into good standing with God. Everything about the birth of Christ shows how much God loves us. He was willing to become like us in order to save us. He was willing to sacrifice himself for creatures who are without hope on our own. He chose to live on this earth to show us a new way to be human–to show us a better way to live according to God’s moral will for our lives.
The incarnation is significant because it leads to Calvary where God had victory over sin. It is because of Calvary that we too may now have victory over sin. This week as you prepare to enjoy the holidays with your friends and loved ones, take some time to reflect not only on the birth of Jesus, but on his life, ministry, and on his death and resurrection. Through the incarnation we find salvation, through the incarnation we have peace with God, and through the incarnation we learn how to live in obedience to the Lord.
We celebrate the Birth of Christ because the Incarnation forever changed the world!!!
Dr. Scott Shiffer has a Ph.D. in Christian Theology from the B.H. Carroll Theological Institute and has been teaching religion classes since 2006. He leads Transformation Media Ministries, an organization to help believers think biblically about culture in America. Scott has given numerous presentations including one at Oxford. He has spoken at church retreats, youth retreats, conferences, and has taught discipleship classes for over 10 years. Scott is married and has three children. He has a heart for helping believers draw closer to God and for aiding them as they are faced with new challenges in America every day.