One of our favorite Christmas rituals is the setting out of a manger scene that has been in our family for generations. All of the children in our extended family are eager to help arrange the manger’s many pieces. It’s a joy to see those little fingers meticulously work on the placement of every angel and shepherd and watch as they repeatedly step back and evaluate their work.
Our manger scene tradition seems to always prompt questions. “Did the baby Jesus get cold in the manger?” “Did Mary and Joseph have a blanket to cover Him, or were the swaddling clothes warm enough?” One recent Christmas one of my nieces asked the most profound question yet: “Uncle Alex, why did Jesus come?”
“That’s a great question,” I said. “A really great question.” Because when you think about the reasons Jesus came, Christmas becomes all the more meaningful. A number of important realities converged in Christ’s arrival on earth.
Prophecy was fulfilled. The Messiah’s coming had been promised by God through the Jewish Scriptures, and was a hope cherished by humanity for centuries. The first chapter of Matthew includes a lengthy list of Jesus’ ancestors. Their miraculous lives were meticulously recorded to verify that Jesus had the proper family pedigree to claim the messianic title Son of David. Verse 22 explains that “all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet.” Jesus taught that His life was the theme and fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures (Luke 24:27; John 5:39).
The Person of God was displayed. A man was asked by Jesus, “Do you believe in the Son of God?” The man answered as millions would respond today: “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”(John 9:35-36). Jesus said to the man, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you” (John 9:37, NIV). The man then offered a response that God alone is worthy to receive. He worshiped Jesus, and Jesus received the worship. Jesus assured us that “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
Payment for sin was made. Jesus was born to die. He was designated to be the perfect sacrificial Lamb who would go to the altar for all of humanity. First Peter 1:19 says that Jesus was “a lamb without blemish and without spot.” Jesus came to atone and pay for my sin and for yours (see also Isaiah 53:5-6; John 1:29; and Revelation 5:6).
Victory over death occurred. All the way back in the garden, God had warned Adam and Eve that their disobedience would yield a bitter outcome—death (Genesis 2:17). The fruit of sin—death—is seen in Scripture, throughout history and in today’s headlines. But Jesus came to give life and to destroy death (see John 10:10; Romans 5:12-21; and 1 Corinthians 15:22, 26). Jesus alone could conquer sin and its results.
Satan was defeated. It is no wonder that Satan worked through human operatives in a futile ploy to destroy the infant Jesus (see Matthew 2:16-18). At least to some degree, Satan knew that Jesus’ birth signaled his ultimate destruction. First John 3:8 says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (NIV).
History was ushered along. No one knows exactly when Jesus will return. But, obviously, His Second Coming must be preceded by a first. We may not be able to read the clock of history with dogmatic precision, but Hebrews 1:2 speaks of the life of Jesus as part of the “last days.” This verse uses the word from which we get the term eschatology, meaning “last things.” Christ’s coming was a key development in the unfolding of historical events. With an interesting choice of words, 1 Corinthians 10:11 calls the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the fulfillment of the ages.
Clearly, Jesus came for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was to show love to you and to me. In entering this world (through a rough stable, no less), God thoroughly identified with humanity. Hebrews reminds us that Jesus, our High Priest, was put through more temptations, agonies and challenges than any of us will ever face, yet He never sinned (see Hebrews 4:14-16). We can never say, “Jesus doesn’t understand what I’m going through.” In living here, suffering and rising from death, Jesus felt all of our pains and more.
Christmas is about an individual and an event—Jesus, the Christ, and His entrance into history. Scripture teaches that the manger held not just another baby, but God Himself, clothed in human flesh. A real Messiah entered actual time and space to resolve a real condition. The condition is sin; the prescribed remedy is found in the One whom Scripture calls “Savior,” Jesus Christ.
It has been said, “Many men have sought to be God, but only one God sought to be man.” Much of the world now opts for an undefined observance called “the holidays,” rather than commemorating Jesus and the reasons for which He came.
But Christians celebrate Christ—a specific Person who was born for a definite purpose. ©2018 Alex McFarland
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version. The verses marked NIV are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Alex McFarland is a speaker, writer and advocate for Christian apologetics. He will be speaking on Biblical prophecy July 27-31, 2020, at The Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove. Alex’s website is: truthforanewgeneration.com.
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