December 25, 2011 by staff
Jesus Birthday, As you’re well aware, Christmas is the holiday set aside every year to celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ. Of course, Christmas is not the only holiday that marks the birthday of a significant historical figure. Here in the United States, for instance, we also celebrate George Washington Day (also known as President’s Day) and Martin Luther King Day, both of which commemorate birthdays.
But everyone understands that when we observe those two holidays, we are celebrating much more than just the births of Washington and King. We are celebrating their lives and their accomplishments. We are giving consideration to all that they did to change history.
Yet, it is has become all too common, even among Christians, to celebrate Christmas in such a way that emphasizes Jesus’ birth to the complete neglect of everything else about him. Now don’t get me wrong. We certainly should be celebrating his birth, for it is worthy of celebration. It is the arrival of God incarnate; it is the second person of the Godhead becoming flesh and dwelling among us. But the birth of Jesus Christ should not be celebrated in a way that divorces it from everything else he did. In fact, to isolate Jesus’ birth from his atoning death and resurrection is to miss the point of his coming altogether.
This is why the biblical texts that describe the birth of Christ consistently and explicitly point forward to what he will accomplish through his death and resurrection, namely the salvation of sinners. Consider a few examples. The angel that appeared to Joseph in a dream proclaimed, “She [Mary] will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The angel that appeared to the shepherds announcing Jesus’ birth declared, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior …” (Luke 2:11). And when Simeon, who had been promised he would see the Messiah before he died, laid eyes on the Christ child, he blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation …” (Luke 2:29-30).
These explicit references to salvation remind us that the birth of Christ is only one part of a larger story, a story about God graciously saving sinners through the person and work of Jesus Christ. The real joy of Christmas, then, is not just that Jesus was born, but that Jesus was born, grew up, and three decades later hung on a cross and was raised from the dead to save us from our sins. You see, the sweet baby Jesus in the manger is also the blood-soaked Jesus on the cross, who is also the victorious Jesus who is raised from the dead. They are all the same person.
Therefore, to celebrate his birth without giving attention to what he accomplished through his death and resurrection is woefully misguided. To divorce Christmas from Good Friday and Easter is to miss the reason for our celebration. It would be like celebrating George Washington Day without ever acknowledging his military accomplishments or his presidency. It would be like celebrating Martin Luther King Day without ever reflecting on the sacrifices he made for civil rights.
So, by all means, let us celebrate Christmas. Let us marvel in the mystery of the incarnation. Let us ponder the fact that God became man and was born of a virgin. And let us rejoice in Jesus’ birth. But let us also remember that there is more to the story about Jesus Christ than just his birth.
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