“Joy to the world!
The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing…”
That time of year is kicking in, the time of hustle and bustle of shopping and preparing, sprinkled with the occasional reminder to remember the “reason for the season” and “the true meaning of Christmas.” The reason for the season is Jesus. It’s when we celebrate Jesus’ birthday, as I tell my two year old. (Jesus’ birthday, not ours, as his grandpa likes to remind the kids when they get caught up with presents and wants.) To focus on the true meaning of Christmas, then, is to really contemplate why it is important that he was born. It’s easy to gloss over that because we are used to celebrating birthdays- ours, our family and friends’, our dog’s, our dead presidents’. Why not celebrate Jesus’, too?
If you believe that the Bible is true and that Jesus was who he said he was, is who he says he is, then his birth is quite different from the rest. It’s more than just an excuse to throw a party every year. If you believe Jesus, you believe he is Immanuel: God with us. That God himself would come to be with us, confine himself to a human body with all it’s toiling and limitations, to be born just like us, grow up and work and live and experience temptation and heartache and rejection just like us, it’s a marvelous thing. Because he didn’t have to. And that the Lord and King of the universe, through whom all things were created and who is worthy of all honor and praise, would come in the most humble way imaginable- a helpless, dependent baby, born not in a palace among royalty but among animals in a barn- it’s unfathomable. Because who of us would choose that?
The question that begs to be asked is why?
Why did Jesus come that way? One of the reasons that sticks out to me is that it shows us a whole lot about his character. I think that’s something for us to ponder during the Christmas season…
But the bigger question to ask is why did he come at all? Why step down from his high and lofty place to this lowly one?
There are many facets to what Jesus came to do (see some listed here), but it all comes down to one thing. We, the people God created, had all turned away from him (and thus away from what is good, what is LIFE) and chosen what is evil instead, what leads to death. It happened in the opening chapters of the Bible and has been happening ever since, each of us choosing our own way instead of God’s, dwelling in death, and being powerless to stop it, because no amount of good deeds on our part could reverse the damage we’ve done to ourselves and our world and our souls.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” -Romans 3:23
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” -Romans 6:23
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:8
“As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.’”
That’s why he came. The people he created, the people he loves, were trapped in sin and death and were unable to get themselves out. He felt compassion for them. He was unwilling for them to be lost, unwilling to let death be the end of the story, unwilling to allow our relationship with him to remain broken. He is the Giver of Life, and he came to give life to us when we were bound by death. He promised that he would, all the way back in Genesis, after death had just come into the world. Jesus was the Savior God had hinted at in Genesis 3:15, the one Adam believed would bring Life, the Savior promised and pointed to throughout all Scripture. And God keeps his promises. He came to rescue us. Because we needed rescuing.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” -John 3:16-17
Not everyone really believes this, that Jesus came to save us because we needed saving, even among those who profess to be Christians (yet believing this is the very core of what it is to be a Christian). It’s easy to rationalize our sins away or to tell ourselves we are basically good people so the things we’ve done wrong can’t be that big a deal and we deserve God’s forgiveness because of our merit or because he is a forgiving God and will let it go. It is hard to accept that we have sinned against God, and that sin has consequences, consequences that a just God must require in order to be consistent with goodness and justice. It’s hard to accept that we deserve death, and that someone else had to die for us. But Jesus said, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.” (Matthew 11:6). How can we take part in that blessing, that joy, the joy of the Good News that Jesus came to save us, unless we understand our situation and believe that we need saving, believe it and long desperately for it? The cancer patient who knows he has cancer and is desperate for a cure is the one who is going to be overjoyed when he is cured. To the one who lives in stubborn denial of his illness and refuses to admit he needs a doctor would not feel that same jubilation at a cure because he doesn’t believe he is sick, and he is not going to find that cure.
“On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” -Mark 2:17
“As it is written: ‘See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.’” -Romans 9:33
This post was actually supposed to be about how to “prepare him room” this Christmas, but I haven’t made it past the first line.
“Joy to the world!”
Do you believe that Jesus’ coming brought joy? A joy that goes deeper than just the festivities of the season but down to the depths of your soul, meeting your deepest need for rescue from sin and death?
My prayer this Christmas is that more and more people would come to understand why Jesus came, and believe him.
May joy come to the people of the world. May earth receive her King.
“Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.”
With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation.
In that day you will say:
‘Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done,
and proclaim that his name is exalted.'”