When man landed on the moon, it was big news. It was almost as if the whole world stopped to watch Neil Armstrong's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.
But it is nothing compared to the news that God landed on the earth. Jesus Christ is God, and his birth is when God came to Earth.
The Relevance of Christmas: God Came to Earth
Jesus "always had the nature of God ..." (Phil. 2:6, TEV). Jesus was God, and he came to live among us for a while (John 1). That is the relevance of Christmas.
Jesus didn't start in the stable. He existed even before creation. The pre-eminence of Christ is explained in Colossians, where we are told he is the exact likeness of the unseen God, he existed before anything else, and, in truth, He is the Creator who made everything in heaven and on earth (Col. 1:15-16).
We may have a hard time relating to a vague being in the sky, but Jesus is God in the flesh. The Bible says if you've seen Jesus, you've seen God (John 1). If Jesus really is God and God came to earth, then Christmas is the most relevant event of history.
The Reality of Christmas: God Became Man
The reality of Christmas was that Jesus Christ was a real man, flesh and blood, bones and hair. He was a real person—not a myth, not a fable, not a nice story. The Bible says Jesus "of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness" (Phil. 2:7, TEV).
Why would Jesus come as a human being? Consider this: If God had wanted to communicate with dogs, he would have become a dog. If he wanted to communicate with birds, he would have become a bird. But God wanted to communicate with people, so he became a person.
How is Jesus like us?
- He was born like us. He gave up all he had and came into the world like billions of other babies. Yet, the whole history of the world rested in that one fragile infant. There was no flashy entrance that could be seen by everyone in the world. Jesus came in the middle of the night in a stable in Bethlehem. Jesus was God in human form, born like us (Luke 2:5-7).
- He grew like us. Jesus grew and developed and had growth spurts (Luke 2:52). Can you imagine what it would have been like to be in school with Jesus? You would know that he was a little bit different, but would you believe that He was God? He did not parade the fact that he was God. He was a human being and grew like us. He looked every inch a Jew from Palestine. He was a real man who worked as a carpenter—that's the reality of Christmas.
- He was tempted like us. The Bible says Jesus was tempted, just like us, yet He was without sin (Heb. 4:14-16). Jesus experienced the same pressures that you and I do, the same temptations and desires, but He never gave in to them. This is important because it means Jesus can relate to you when you're struggling with temptations.
- He suffered like us. Jesus felt pain and disappointment. He became tired and lonely. He grieved, He cried, He was human. In Gethsemane Jesus said, "The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me" (Matt. 26:38, TEV). Jesus knew what it was like to feel pain and to be under pressure. Jesus became what we are, so we can become what he is. That is the reality of Christmas.
The Reason for Christmas: Jesus Came to Die
Jesus didn't stay in the manger. He went to a cross and voluntarily laid down His life for us. The Bible says, "He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death—his death on the cross" (Phil. 2:8, TEV). Nobody put Him there without His permission. Why did he allow Himself to go to the cross?
The Bible says he did it for two reasons:
- To demonstrate God's love: The Bible says, "God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners" (Rom. 5:8 NLT, second edition). His motivation was love. If you want to know how much God loves you, look at the cross. Jesus said, "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15:13, NLT). The Bible says that Jesus gave His life for us when we rejected Him, before we even knew Him, before we were even born.
- To pay for our sins: When you break a law, you have to pay a penalty. When you break man's laws, you pay man's penalties. When you break God's laws, you pay God's penalties. The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life: "Christ himself carried our sins in his body to the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. It is by his wounds that you have been healed" (1 Peter 2:24, TEV). What Jesus did over 2,000 years ago can make a difference in our lives right now. We can be completely forgiven for everything we've ever done wrong or will ever do wrong. That's the reason for Christmas.
The angels said, "This very day in David's town your Savior was born—Christ the Lord!" (Luke 2:11, TEV). Jesus came to be the Savior of the world. If you didn't need a Savior, God wouldn't have wasted all the effort to send one. The very fact that Jesus Christ did come to earth, gave up all the glory of heaven, became a human being, was born as a little baby, grew up to be a man with pressures and temptations like our own and then died on a cross and was raised from the dead means you definitely need what God has to offer. Otherwise, He wouldn't have wasted all that energy.
Salvation through Jesus means freedom—freedom from guilt, worry, fear and purposelessness in life. You are free to live the way God meant for you to live, and you can rest in the freedom of knowing Jesus has given you eternal life.
So the cross of Christ is not the end of baby Jesus in the manger. He is alive, and he came on a mission to bring you home to the Father. That's the reason for Christmas.
The Result of Christmas: Jesus Is Lord
The Bible says that because Jesus was willing to walk in humility, "God raised him to the highest place above and gave him the name that is greater than any other name. And so, in honor of the name of Jesus all beings in heaven, on earth, and in the world below will fall on their knees, and all will openly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:9-11, TEV).
But God already knew Jesus would succeed at his mission because, when he was born, the angels proclaimed him Lord: "This very day in David's town your Savior was born—Christ the Lord!" (Luke 2:11 TEV)
What does it mean to be a Christian, to be a believer, to be saved? It means to say, "Jesus is my Lord. I acknowledge the fact that He is God, I believe that He has everything under control, and I commit everything I have to Him."
What does it mean to say, "Jesus is Lord"?
- I acknowledge that Jesus really is God. He's more than a man or a prophet. He is the Lord over my life, meaning I will do what He tells me to do—it is a test of my commitment to Him.
- I believe that Jesus has everything under control. To say "Jesus is Lord" is a statement of comfort and encouragement. Even if everything looks bleak, Jesus is Lord, and I know He's got everything under control. I may not see the pattern or exactly what is happening, but Jesus is Lord, and I recognize the truth that He has everything under control. Nothing escapes his care or concern because He is Lord. To say "Jesus is Lord" is to say that I don't know what the new year holds, but I know who holds the future.
- I commit all of my life to Jesus. He has the right to determine what's right in my life and to direct me. I seek to live according to his plans.
The Bible says one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. It will happen. All of the arrogance in this world that puts itself up against Christ and all the arguments that deny Jesus is Lord will fall by the wayside, and every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.
That is the result of Christmas: Jesus is Lord. We need to rediscover this phrase that has been used for centuries as the test of a believer: JESUS IS LORD.
It's what it means to be a believer: "If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from death, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9 TEV).
You may think evil is winning, but Jesus is Lord. You may think you can't go on because circumstances are piled up against you, but Jesus is Lord. You may think your problems are too big for anyone to handle, but Jesus is Lord.
When you're discouraged, say, "Jesus is Lord." When you're tired, when you're worried, when you're afraid, when you're lonely say, "Jesus is Lord." Say it when you're grieving and you don't understand why someone you love just died. Say it when you don't think you can go another mile.
Say it this Christmas and make it the theme of your life: Jesus is Lord.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times best-seller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.
For the original article, visit pastors.com.
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