As we enter this Christmas holiday, all of the tinsel, wrappings, and decorations must not distract us from the main message of this season.
Christmas is primarily about Jesus. Yet surprisingly, it is not so much about the baby Jesus, as it is about the Savior Jesus.
According to the Bible, Christmas is not about a helpless babe in a manger, but about a sovereign God who took upon Himself the limitations of humanity in order to live the life all sinners were incapable of living and dying as a substitute in the sinner’s stead.
The question that must be answered at this time of year is a simple one, yet one that carries with it a profound answer. The simple question is this: Why was Jesus born?
The profound answer is given by an angel in Matthew 1:21, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Therein lies the message of Christmas in eight words — “He will save his people from their sins.”
A few comments of explanation are in order. First, the phrase “He will save” is written in an emphatic way. In fact, it could be translated, “He himself will save.”
The salvation Jesus came to secure is such that only he could accomplish this task. All roads and all religions do not lead to eternal glory. Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the sole Savior from sin. The only path that leads to eternal life with God is the path which travels through the perfect life and sacrificial suffering of Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for sin on the cross.
Second, the word “save” is a word that means “deliver” or “rescue.” Jesus came on a rescue mission. This is how helpless man is — we are in desperate need of a rescue.
But please notice, Jesus’ mission was not to rescue you from a poor self-image, or the lack of purpose in your life, or the lack of earthly success, or from your bad job, or your health problems, or your dysfunctional behavior. He did not come to repair all of your family problems. He did not come to help you discover the champion inside of yourself. No, He came to rescue you from that which resides deep inside of you, that which alienates you from holy God — He came to rescue you “from your sins.”
The word “sin” here is a comprehensive term that includes everything that is in opposition to God. It’s a word that literally means “to miss the mark” and the mark in question is the holy perfection of God.
Christmas is primarily about Jesus Christ leaving the glories of heaven in order to rescue helpless sinners. Or to put this in Jesus’ own words, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
Born in order to die — that is the profound meaning of this holiday. Not to die for himself, but to die “for his people” — to save only those who will bow their knee and confess him as Lord, only those who will turn from their sins, and only those who will rest only upon His sacrifice alone as sufficient payment for their sins.
The true message of Christmas is about holy God doing what we were incapable of doing—living a perfectly sinless life, dying a sacrificial death, and rising victoriously from the grave.
Turn to Christ this Christmas. Receive the greatest gift imaginable.
“You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
The Rev. Patrick Slyman is pastor of the Pigeon Cove Chapel in Rockport.