A Theological Definition of Christmas

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so they might receive adoption as sons.”

Galatians 4:4-5, ESV

When we think about Christmas, often times our minds immediately run to gifts, lights, trees, cinnamon candles, and my personal favorite, coconut cream pie. Yet, we in the Christian faith have much more of a reason for celebration this time of year that goes well beyond that of gifts and food. Although our focus is mostly on the birth of Christ, there might be a more worthy focus for our attention.

The Definition

The old Christmas hymn, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, reads,

“Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail th’incarnate deity, Please with us in men to dwell, Jesus Our Emmanuel.”

The focus of Christmas should be that of the Word (Christ Himself) becoming flesh and dwelling among us so we could behold His glory. It was H.B. Charles, Jr. who said in his sermon,

“I submit to you that no matter how special the gifts you receive today, no matter how good the food you enjoy today, and no matter how warm the fellowship you experience today, this day can by no means measure up to the day when Joseph’s virgin, betrothed wife gave birth to the Son of God.”[1]

You see, Christmas is much more than the gifts, food, and fellowship. It’s about the Son of God becoming human for us. Our focus should be on Christ becoming human, “to redeem us from the law.” It is for this reason that Christ came. Paul wrote that it was in the “fullness” of time, that God sent His Son. It was not as if there was a specific date set for Christ to come, but because God is perfect there are no such things as accidents. Dr. Thomas Mayberry writes,

“The time of Christ’s coming was not left to chance but was a part of God’ plan from the beginning.” [2]

The purpose of Christ’s coming was to redeem those who were under the curse of the law, which is every one of us. Although this was not the beginning of Christ, it was the beginning of his earthly ministry. Jesus took the lowly form of humanity to buy back sinners from the curse of sin and the law and to bring them into everlasting sonship by His blood. These two ideas – redemption and adoption – are complementary.

These two verses clearly depict for us the picture of the Incarnation. He [Christ] was human because he was born of a woman, and born under the law. This is so essential to our faith, as Christians. You may question if the virgin birth is necessary to believe in to be a Christian and I would argue that it is. Why? Because without the virgin birth, Christianity is not distinctive from any other religion. In all other religions, the goals are to reach the same status as your “god.” Or if you do all of the right things, you will be a King in the afterlife. But Christianity is the opposite. Instead of our God giving us a standard that we cannot reach, he came down to our level and reached it for us! Friends, that’s Christmas and it’s the gospel!

By God sending His Son down to be our standard and reach it for us, it also shows us Christ’s deity. The only one who could complete the task was Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

It’s Christmas that should remind us of our inability to save ourselves. Because we constantly fail at keeping the law and doing good, there’s no possible way we could save ourselves.

So what is the theological definition of Christmas?

Jesus Christ would take on human form, as God incarnate, to buy us back from being mastered by our sin.

He came to us by his own initiative. He lived as we did. He’s experienced everything we have. He kept the law perfectly. He died on a cross, sacrificing himself, for our sins in the place of sinners. Then He rose again to defeat death and buy us back from sin’s bondage.

Friends, this isn’t simply Christmas – it’s the gospel.

This Christmas season, remember the gospel, for it is what fuels our thinking during this holiday.


[1] Charles, Jr., H.B. “The Good News of the Incarnation.” Sermon, Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church, Jacksonville, FL, December 10, 2017. Accessed December 23, 2017. http://hbcharlesjr.today/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/The-Good-News-of-the-Incarnation.pdf.

[2] Thomas Marberry, Daryl Ellis, and Robert E. Picirilli, The Randall House Bible Commentary: Galatians through Colossians (Nashville: Randall House Publications, 1988).

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