“I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel. I just don’t understand Christmas I guess. I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I’m just not happy.”
For the past few years, the festivity of my holiday season has been replaced with the melancholy of winter. Christmas hasn’t felt the way it used to when I was younger. At some point I lost the joy that comes with waking up early to unwrap presents on Christmas day. Like Charlie Brown, I appreciated the holiday but I didn’t anticipate it. The traditions I had grown up with became just that — traditions.
This year, I’ve found myself looking forward to Christmas again, and it’s for the same reason I originally lost my excitement for it: I started seeing Christmas for what it really is, or at least, what it’s supposed to be.
Growing up in church, I was always told about the nativity story, but I never knew the point of the nativity story. If Christmas was about the birth of Christ, then what was the birth of Christ about?
I think a lot of people are in the same place I once was. While our culture acknowledges the birth in the manger through TV specials and front yard decorations, there isn’t much clarity on why it’s relevant to begin with.
To understand why Jesus came, we have to understand his birth as a response. He wasn’t born randomly, but as a solution to the world’s greatest need. Ever since the Garden of Eden, we’ve all chosen to live our lives on our own terms instead of the way God intended. Rather than embracing dependence on our Creator, we’ve chosen independence from him. We’ve chosen sin over holiness, death over life, the temporary over the eternal.
“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”
1 Timothy 1:15
God sent His Son so that we would have reconciliation with him. By living according to God’s will and dying in our place, Jesus has brought redemption to those who put their trust in him instead of themselves. Because the Son has come to us, we have a way to come to God.
“Jesus came because we needed him. The purpose of Jesus’ birth was twofold: to bring glory to God and to make peace between God and those who trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection.”
-The Gospel Project curriculum from the children’s ministry I serve in
When I used to think of Christmas, I thought of the newborn Savior without reflecting on how he saved. I thought of Christmas without Easter, but the reason his birth is worth celebrating is because of the hope that Easter brought. The events these two holidays represent are inseparable from each other.
A lot of us, believers and non-believers alike, separate Christ’s birth from the rest of his life, but it’s important that in celebrating the newborn King, we put our minds on more than only the manger.
“Remember, young believers, that from the first moment when Christ did lie in the cradle until the time when he ascended up on high, he was at work for his people; and from the moment when he was seen in Mary’s arms, till the instant when in the arms of death he bowed his head and gave up the ghost, he was at work for your salvation and mine.”
-Charles Spurgeon, A Treasury of Spurgeon on the Life and Work of Our Lord
The reason we can sing “Joy to the world, the Lord has come,” is because of what he came to do through dying on the cross and returning on the third day. He came to deliver us from the sin we’ve grown comfortable in so that he could show us something better. Christ was born to show us a life worth pursuing, one lived for him and not for ourselves.
Simply by being born with the purpose to fix the very thing we had broken, God showed us his grace. Not only that, but by being born into a lower class, we know that he is a God who identifies with everyone. He came humbly, and we can rejoice in that, knowing he didn’t just come for one type of person, but for all of us. We are the ones who need a Savior. We are the people he came to restore.
“There is hardly a better way to sum up what God was about when he came to re-claim the world in Jesus Christ — his glory, our peace. His greatness, our joy. His beauty, our pleasure. The point of redemption is that God is glorious and means to be known and praised for his glory by a peace-filled new humanity.”
-John Piper, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy
We can look forward to Christmas because of the hope we have in Easter. Since he rose again, we have a reason to celebrate. Our Savior has overcome death, our sin has been covered, and we have been made new. Hallelujah!