What is the meaning of Christmas? Here is a Bible verse that seems to express it quite clearly:
And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21 NKJV)
This information revealing the purpose of that first Christmas was given to Joseph in a dream by an angel. The meaning seems clear to most. We are all sinners under the judgment of God and headed for an eternal hell. In order to spare us that fate, God sent His only Son, Jesus, as our Savior, to die for our sins so that those who believe in Him should be forgiven of their sins and therefore escape the wrath of God and instead have the hope of heaven. That’s it, Christmas is about our sins being forgiven so that we can enjoy heaven forever. What a great Christmas story, and what a great Christmas gift.
Only that version of the Christmas story misses the main point. Though the related facts are essentially correct, they don’t get to the bottom of the story.
What then is the reason for the season? To identify that we must go back to Matthew 1:21 and the purpose for the coming of Christ given by the angel. The verse tells us that Christ came to save His people from their sins. Notice that it does not say that He came to save His people from the penalty of their sins. Though he did that, that is not what the verse says or means. It says that Christ came to save us from our sins. That is, He came to deliver us from our enslavement to sin and its destructive impact on our lives and the hurt that it does to others.
One reason many people may have difficulty in grasping the meaning is that they fail to grasp the terrible ugliness and bondage of sin and the pain that it inflicts on us and others. Therefore, they are more interested in being relieved of the penalty of sin than of sin itself.
However, God’s primary interest resides in saving us from the sin at work in our lives that is such a corrupting and destructive influence. His ultimate purpose in sending Christ was to enable us to be godly people—like Christ.
We find this truth in numerous passages in Scripture. Titus 2:14 teaches:
(W)ho gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
God’s objective is to raise up a race of people who reflect His nature.
Romans 8:29 informs us:
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
God would like to have a family comprised of many members that reflect the nature of Jesus.
This purpose for the events of the first Christmas comprises really good news. It means that the blessings of Christmas are not restricted to our justification, our being exonerated from the penalty for our sins, but they also include God’s provision for us to live free from bondage to sin. Think about what that means. Regardless of what area of weakness we can’t seem to control and is messing up our lives, Christ has provided the power to overcome. His Christmas gift for us is not only forgiveness but also freedom from bondage.
Of course, being gifted with the power to be free does not remove us from the equation. God still has us in the fight, and sometimes that gets pretty intense. However, we can be assured that God has provided all of the resources necessary for a victorious outcome.
So as you unwrap your presents from around the tree, don’t forget to thank God for His wonderful gift of power for deliverance from the bondage of sin. And don’t let that gift be like the exercise bike your spouse got you last year that has been sitting in the garage unused. Christmas 2014 would be a great time to unpack God’s delivering power so that 2015 can be your best year ever.