If there is one aspect of Christmas our culture can get on board with it is this: The “stuff.”
The “stuff” of Christmas.
You know what I mean by the “stuff.” Watching Elf, putting up lights, drinking hot chocolate, decorating the tree, listening to Bing Crosby, buying tons of gifts for one another. I mean, the “stuff” of Christmas is fun, right?
And here’s the thing…you don’t need Jesus to enjoy the “stuff” of Christmas, do you? I mean, not really. This is why Christmas remains so popular to so many who really have no interest in Christ at all.
Don’t get me wrong. I love watching Christmas movies and decorating the tree and listening to Bing as much as the next guy. I love to buy my wife and kids fun gifts for Christmas. It really is fun. It brings me joy as I’m sure it does you. The “stuff” of Christmas is a blast. But here’s the problem.
The “stuff” can so easily mislead us into believing that this is what Christmas is about. In fact, I have a growing concern that we are raising up an entire generation of children who believe that what makes Christmas so wonderful is the “stuff.”
But, this isn’t true. Christmas is not about the “stuff.” Not at all actually.
Christmas is about one thing: Incarnation.
Incarnation is a word that literally means “in the flesh.” It is the biblical doctrine that the Son of God (Jesus) became human. Incarnation, in the Christian understanding, means that Christ was both God and human and in love, chose to dwell among us in order to save us from our sins.
Christmas is about incarnation. And this is what makes Christmas so incredible.
God came. God came in the form of a poor, helpless baby. To rescue us.
John 1:14 reads, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
J.C. Ryle, the 19thcentury British pastor, wrote this about the incarnation: “Here we see the grace and condescension of Christ. Had He come to save mankind with royal majesty, surrounded by His Father’s angels, it would have been an act of underserved mercy. Had he chosen to dwell in a palace, with power and great authority, we should have reason enough to wonder. But to become poor as the very poorest of mankind, and lowly as the very lowliest – this is a love that passes understanding. It is unspeakable and unsearchable.”
You might wonder, “what does the incarnation have to do with me exactly?”
It has everything to do with you. And with me.
Personally, I find incredible hope in the incarnation, especially as I think about the fragility and transitory nature of my life and the lives of those I love. Reflecting on the incarnation has been a source of great hope, peace, and joy for me in this season of pain and struggle for my family. Perhaps more than ever before, the doctrine of the incarnation has come alive in my heart and mind.
Let me share with you four implications of the incarnation of Jesus that I have been meditating on this Christmas season. Each of these should radically affect every one of our lives. I hope these encourage you as they have me. These remind us of why we celebrate Christmas and what Christmas is all about. Christmas lights, hot cocoa, and cool new toys are no match for these glorious truths…
#1: The incarnation of Jesus reminds us that God both understands and enters into the loneliness and pain of our lives.
Friends, when Jesus was born, the God of the universe entered into our situation, taking on all the limitations of physical existence. Chew on that for a moment. He did not save us from a distance, but came as close to us as He possibly could.
This was necessary for our salvation. Jesus could only offer His body as a sacrifice for our sins and be raised bodily from the dead by becoming a real man. Jesus had to become one of us to save us. Jesus could not have grown up and really been crucified and raised from the dead if He had not really been born.
And not only that, but in his humility, by entering into humanity and history, Jesus became like us. And what that means is that we have a God who, unlike any other concept of God, gets us, understands us, can sympathize with us and comfort us.
None of us can look at Jesus and say, “You don’t understand.”
Because He does. He understands.
When you’re suffering, talk to Jesus. When you are afraid, talk to Jesus. When you’re hurting or struggling or confused, talk to Jesus.
He gets it. He’s been there.
More than that, He cares. He cares deeply.
#2: The incarnation of Jesus shows us that as Christians, we are called to understand and enter into the loneliness and pain of others.
As Christians, as those who have Jesus Christ now dwelling within us through His Spirit, we are called to enter into the loneliness and pain of others.
Jesus has transformed our lives. We are new creations in Him. And because of this, He is conforming us more and more into His image.
This means He is making us more loving and compassionate people. Just like Him.
Let me be direct. If you and I claim to be Christians, claim to love God, but are mean spirited jerks to others, I question whether we truly know and love Jesus. Whether we are saved. Whether He truly has our heart…because we are so unlike him.
Jesus is love. And He calls us and remakes us to love like Him.
In Ephesians 5:1-2, the Apostle Paul charges believers to, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as beloved children, and walk in love, just as Christ lovedus and gave Himself up for us as a fragrantsacrificial offering to God.”
The Apostle John in 1 John 4:7 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”
Jesus Himself in John 13:34-35 is clear when He says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
One of the most profound, Christ-like ways we can show love to others is in entering into the loneliness and pain of others. This is precisely what Christ did in entering into our world through His incarnation.
Do you and I enter into the lives of others in the same way? Is it a joy to care for, encourage, and show compassion to others who are hurting and broken?
How blessed our family has been in this difficult season by the love and compassion of God’s people. It blows me away when I think about it. The words of encouragement. The prayers. The visits. The texts. The gifts.
This is the love of Christ in action. We have felt it and have been overwhelmed by it.
This is the heart of Christ. This is the work of the Spirit. This is the mark of true Christianity.
#3: In His incarnation, Jesus humbled himself to the point of death in order to save sinners.
In humility and love, Jesus was born as a helpless baby. And the humility and love of His birth was the whole pattern of His life.
Philippians 2:5–7 instructs us to, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”
The sufferings that began with His birth in the manger culminated with His death on the cross. The same body that was wrapped in swaddling cloths was also wrapped in a burial shroud.
You see, Jesus was born ultimately to die.
The manger points us to the cross.
Christ was born to die that He might save sinners like you and me. He came to die for our rebellion against a holy God that we might be forgiven and reconciled to our Maker by grace alone through faith alone in Him.
This is how we are saved from our sins – by the humility and love of our great Savior, Jesus. We are saved by believing that in His great love for us, Jesus humbled Himself by becoming a man and dying on the cross for our sins. This leads us to #4…
#4: The incarnation of Jesus demands a response from each and every one of us.
You can’t come face to face with the reality of the incarnation, that God became flesh in Jesus, and walk away going, “That’s nice. That’s a nice story. Pass me the fruitcake.”
Are you kidding?
The incarnation of Jesus demands a response from each and every one of us.
What about you? Like those who had the opportunity but refused to make room for Jesus in the Inn the night of his birth, what kind of welcome are you giving Him right now? Is there room for Him in your heart? Or is your heart so full of other saviors, other treasures, that there is no room for Jesus?
Jesus doesn’t just want a little corner of your heart. He deserves and demands to occupy the whole thing. To be your One True Savior. To be your One True Treasure. To be your One True King.
Friends, none of us have worshipped God like we should. We have all loved and served other people and other things in the way that we should only love and serve Jesus. And yet, in love, Jesus died on the cross in our place, for our sins of loving and serving the wrong things.
Jesus died for us so that we could be rescued and receive new hearts that increasingly love Him and worship Him and over time, begin to feel and think and speak and act more and more like Him.
You see, Jesus came in the power of God, and was born in human flesh, so that by His love and great mercy, messed up people like you and me could be set free to live the lives we were created by God to live.
Lives full of hope. Lives full of love. Lives full of joy. Lives full of peace.
Lives that are fully surrendered to God in obedience. Lives that are fully satisfied by God alone.
This is the point of Christmas. This is the good news of Christmas! This is why we sing with joy and with tears this time of year.
Gifts are great, but Christmas is about more than gifts. It is about far more than all of the “stuff.”
Christmas is about the incarnation of our Savior.
And this, my friends, is reason for great joy! As the great hymn puts it so well,
Joy to the world, the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And Heaven and nature sing
And Heaven and nature sing
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing!
Let us sing, let us shout, let us remember and celebrate what Christmas is all about: The incarnation of Christ.
God came to rescue us.
Praise His Name forever.