As Christmas seasons come and go, no season goes by without a bit of personal reflection. The food, fun, family, friends, and, of course, the presents are all wonderful additions to the season, however, sometimes even Christians forget the real reason for celebration.
Now, I want to be clear. The statement above is not meant to be a repetitious run amok of the season itself. Though it is possible for people to forget the true meaning of Christmas, it seems also that many evangelicals have re-embraced the season of Advent so they can continue to honor the reason for the season, so they say.
A Back Story
To be a bit vulnerable with you as a reader, one of the things I struggle with as a pastor is “special day” sermons, i.e. Christmas, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc. For lack of better terms, it seems as though you can only say so many things about Fathers, Mothers, and so on. Yet, the other day my wife and I were sitting in the living room talking and she asked me if I was going to be preaching a Christmas sermon, to which I replied, “No.”
She continued to ask why I was not going to preach a sermon as such and exclaimed, “It’s not Christmas without a Christmas sermon!” I replied that I was just going to continue my series in the Sermon on the Mount, because like any good preacher, I wanted to continue my sequential exposition of the Matthew 5-7.
But then came the day for sermon preparation, and guess what? The Lord led me to Matthew 1:21:
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
This verse was my text for this past Lord’s Day, which was titled, “3 Necessities for Christmas,” and they are as follows:
The virgin birth
“She will bear a son.”
The first necessity of Christmas begins with the virgin birth of Christ. Isaiah prophesied that God is going to give a sign – which means pledge or covenant (interesting!) – and that sign will be the virgin-born baby. God is a covenant making God, and the sign of Christmas is yet another instance of God’s pursuit of humanity through pledging his grace and love to us through revelation.
The virgin birth is a necessity because it shows us that Jesus is the Messiah. There have been many different heresies throughout the history of the Church regarding the person of Jesus Christ and all have been given a fair treatment by councils and synods to reclaim and repeat that Jesus Christ is the Messiah whom God has sent to save the world. In other words, he is not only the Messiah who saves, but he is also the self revelation of God himself. Al Mohler posits,
“The virgin birth does not stand alone as a biblical doctrine, it is an irreducible part of the biblical revelation about the person and work of Jesus Christ.”
The virgin birth is necessary because it not only solidifies the Messiahship of Christ, but also the authority of the revelation of God.
“…and you shall call his name Jesus.”
Not only is the virgin birth a necessity for Christmas, but so is the incarnation – that God came in flesh to ransom humanity for his glory. This concept is portrayed in the name often given to Jesus – Immanuel: with us is God!
While taking a church history class in seminary, I was driven to a love for the scholastic theologian, Anselm of Canterbury, and specifically his work, Cur Deus Homo. The purpose of Anselm’s work was essentially to prove the necessity for Jesus Christ, the Godman, as the only being able to pay for the sins of humanity and deliver them from sin’s bondage. So, Anselm argues that the person to redeem humankind must be truly God and truly human. He says,
“…man owes to God for his sin something which he is incapable of paying back, and cannot be saved unless he repays it.”
Essentially, then, Anselm argues that the only true way to redeem humanity is through someone who has no sin and must give his life up for those who do possess the disease of sinfulness.
“…for he will save his people from their sins.”
The result of the coming of our Messiah through the virgin Mary? Redemption. I shouldn’t have to say much here. So here is what I will say:
It is Christ and Christ alone who can save!
To conclude, here is a quote from Charles Spurgeon from a sermon called “The Incarnation and the Birth of Christ”:
“He has not been a secret and a silent person up to this moment. That new-born child there has worked long ere now; that infant slumbering in its mother’s arms is the infant of to-day, but it is the ancient of eternity; that child who is there hath not made its appearance on the stage of this world; his name is not yet written in the calendar of the circumcised, but still though you wist it not, ‘his goings forth have been of old, from everlasting.”