Christmas is a time of great joy. Many of us look forward to this holiday season all year long. The ring of excitement over what gifts will be under the tree or in the stockings, echoes in our minds. The fun family traditions that we participate in are much anticipated. However, we often forget, even as Christians, why Christmas is so important.
The story of Jesus’ birth is certainly important. Yet, a cute, chubby, baby Jesus in a manger is not exactly what we should get excited about. As Christians, we should be excited for what the incarnation means for us. The savior of the world came down and inaugurated His kingdom here on earth. He also did so many things for us that we cannot begin to comprehend. Living a perfect life amid fallen humanity is one of those amazing and incomprehensible things. As we approach Christmas, I am writing this small blog to answer some worldview questions that should give us a deeper love for the incarnation and a single implication through Christ’s ministry.
These worldview questions are simple, but not simplistic. They are questions that all of us will ask at one point or another in our lives. The questions are also not my own. They come from a professor, who heard it from his professor many years ago. What's great though, is that humanity is asking the same questions that it did back then—Who are we? What's our problem? How do we fix it?
WHO ARE WE?
How does my personal understanding of identity play into the event of the incarnation? Well, it is not actually your own personal identity that is affected by the incarnation, but it is the identity of humanity, a category to which every single person belongs.
Humanity is as Paul the apostle puts it... dead. Dead in sin, that is (Eph. 2:1; Col. 2:13). The human condition is a state of misery that came about by Adam and Eve’s fall from their perfect relationship with God the father in Eden (Rom. 3:23). After this fall, humanity has only grown in their ability to devise evil, so much so, that the Lord destroyed the world with a flood (Gen. 6). However, God’s curse from the Garden persisted, permeating throughout all mankind and even into creation itself. The flood did not save us from our sinful human nature nor the effects of sin on our world. We abide in a sinful condition, which is very clearly our greatest problem.
WHAT’S OUR PROBLEM?
Our problem is that we are not only dead in our sin, but we enjoy sin. This is what Paul says inspired by the Holy Spirit in Romans 1:18-32. For lack of space, I did not quote it at length, but I encourage you to read it. This passage explains how dire our need is as sinful human beings for someone to save us. We have chosen sin over God and are under his righteous judgment and wrath. This is a huge problem. In fact, it is an eternal problem. A problem Jesus willingly took on in obedience to God as He came to earth in order to glorify the Father and “save his people from their sins” (Matt.1:5).
Maybe you are thinking, “I’m pretty good, I do not sin much.” Maybe you’re thinking, “yes I sin, sin sure is fun.” Either thought process reinforces the fact that you are sinful. One says I’m not in need of any help because my own sense of self-righteousness is enough to save me. The other says I do not want any help because I enjoy my sin. Both agree that you have a problem. Both agree that you’re in need of savior even if each resist this idea. The question for the rest of us is, “how do we fix our problem?”
HOW DO WE FIX IT?
We don’t. We need someone to stand between God’s holy wrath and our feeble, sinful, human frame. Jesus fixes the problem. His incarnation was only a step in the whole process of redemption played out in history for us. His incarnation began His purpose here on earth. He lived a perfect life without sin and did countless miracles. He suffered and died the death of a criminal on the cross. He rose from the dead three days later and ascended into heaven in order that He might send the Holy Spirit to those who believe in this good news. Christ’s incarnation paved way for the greatest news we’ll ever hear. We can be saved from our sin and have peace with God.
Christ knows our condition fully. In fact, He experienced far greater pain, suffering, neglect, and human evil than any of us will ever know in our lifetime. He can physically, emotionally, and spiritually relate to our state of misery and sin. Although He did not sin, He is not condescending to us in our estate. Hebrews says this:
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. - Hebrews 4:14-16
Our Savior knows us. This is a wonderful consolation for us. We can come to a God who is aware of all our imperfections, sinful habits and tendencies, and ask Him for grace. How wonderful it is to be known, and still receive grace!
As Christmas comes and goes, I pray your faith in Jesus Christ remains vibrant. His condescension from heaven through the incarnation should give us great hope. I encourage you to remember the story of Jesus’ birth this Christmas, but do not forget the rest of the story. We are sinners. We needed a savior. Christ came to fix the problem. He did so by redeeming us through his death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and glorification applied to us through the Holy Spirit who brings us peace with God. This is the good news of Christmas, and the greatest news of the gospel. Merry Christmas!
Brendan joined the Orchard Hill staff in September 2018. Prior to joining Orchard Hill, Brendan was the youth leader at College Hill Reformed Presbyterian Church in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania and also worked for Urban Impact Foundation (UIF) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During his time at UIF he was on their Options Team and was a Spiritual Formation Teacher during summer day-camp.
Brendan is a graduate of Geneva College. During college he met his wife Rhetta, and was a member of the Geneva College Men's Rugby Club. Brendan and Rhetta married in May 2016 and moved to Pittsburgh in order for Brendan to begin a Master of Divinity Program at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
Brendan and Rhetta have grown to enjoy the Pittsburgh area, but often visit their families in rural Crawford County and Greene County. Rhetta loves horses and riding quads, and Brendan enjoys hunting and fishing. Brendan and Rhetta push each other to work out, and tackle life together in whatever way they can.