By Josh Martin, Pullman Site Pastor
Last year I explained the Christmas story to my 4-year old using a nativity set. I started with the Angel going to Mary. Then moved to Joseph, Mary’s fiancé, believing her angelic tale. Then I picked up the donkey piece and talked about the journey to Bethlehem while trotting the donkey along. Once we got to town, I knocked on a few doors before having the Inn Keeper come out and say, “There’s no room in the Inn.” I closed with baby Jesus being born in a manger and the shepherd and wise men coming to worship.
(Personally, I left out the sex talk, virgin birth, and Herod killing all boys in the region under 2 years old… my daughter seemed a little young for those details.)
I ended the story by waving my hand over the nativity set like a performer and announcing, “And that’s how Jesus was born.” I thought my kid would clap and say, “Great job Dad, amazing story, perfectly told.” Instead, she looked at me and said, “Ok, that’s how Jesus was born… But dad, you didn’t tell me WHY Jesus was born?”
That’s a fair question and one often left out of our Christmas story. So, here are some reasons why the incarnation happened:
1. JESUS WAS BORN TO DESTROY THE WORK OF THE DEVIL.
“He who does what is sinful is of the devil because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the work of the devil.” -1 John 3:8
In its most basic sense, Jesus was born to take back what belonged to Him. The Gospels tell the story of Jesus entering the world He created to personally oppose and destroy the occupying power. N.T. Wright says, “In the incarnation is the story of the rightful King returning to the world and claiming, ‘This is mine.’”
Something is going on that is so significant Jesus had to step into the story to make it right. There is an enemy so dark and evil, whose power is so present and so strong and so impossible for us to overcome that Jesus had to step in and defeat the enemy for us.
We never seeing demons confronting Jesus with any sense of power while he was on earth. Demons hear Jesus and obey him, and they know who he is. One time the demons even said, “We know that you are the Son of God, have you come here to destroy us?” Jesus responded, “Yes, actually. Very much so.” (That’s my translation.)
Jesus was born to destroy the work of the Devil. Remember this: Christmas is not just an incarnation, it’s an invasion.
2. JESUS WAS BORN BECAUSE WE CANNOT SAVE OURSELVES.
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10
It’s important to remember that Jesus doesn’t just have life or give life, He is Life. The founder of every world religion believes they know the way to life, but only Jesus says “I am the Life.”
It’s so important to remember the message of Christmas is not, “Cheer up you can do this!”, the message is, “You can’t do this, you’ve tried and failed.” The message isn’t “help yourself”, it’s “die to self”. It’s not “try harder”, it’s “quit trying”. In short, we’re talking about news, not advice. Advice is what you should do, news is what’s been done. The difference between those two things are a matter of life and death.
To accept the true meaning and true gift of Christmas , you have to believe this news: You’re a sinner and outside of Jesus there is no life. You need to be saved by grace. Christmas says God has drawn near to those who have been drawn away by sin. We can’t save ourselves, so he was born to be life for the lifeless, the way for the wanderer, the fullness of joy to those filled with despair.
3. JESUS WAS BORN TO TASTE DEATH FOR EVERYONE
"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” Hebrews 2:9
I once heard John Piper say, “Christmas is mainly a preparation for Good Friday.” That truth should emotionally move us. Jesus was born for a mission and that mission was a sinless life, a crucified death, a victorious resurrection and the inauguration of the Kingdom. This is not a fairy tale. This is real hope and real joy, to be applied to the darkest days. Jesus was born to taste death for everyone. He was born to defeat death for everyone. He was born to kill death.
Let that sink in: There is no more death. Because Jesus died our death. For the believer, our death is now in the past tense. This leads to the gloriously good news that Life eternal is on the table for the whole world. This means, He’s not just God with us, He’s also God for us and he was born so we could spend eternity with Him.
If you have someone in your life who recently died, and they were a believer in Jesus, it is theologically sound to say: They are not dead, they are fully alive. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. The Lord who was born to die our death so our death could lead to eternal life. As Billy Graham famously said, “One day you’re gonna read that I’m dead; don’t believe a word of it.”
4. JESUS WAS BORN TO MODEL SENT-NESS.
"Jesus replied, 'Let us go somewhere else--to the nearby villages--so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’" Mark 1:38
Nothing showed God’s heart more than sending His Son into an unreached people group so they might believe and be saved. In the incarnation, we not only get the gift of salvation, we get the modeling of God’s methodology for our salvation. Jesus took on flesh and dwelt among us. He was the good news of the Kingdom right in the middle of the people.
It’s important for us to see ourselves as born again to live among the lost and help them see the great light that has shone into the darkness. We don’t teleport to heaven once we’re saved, and we don’t sit purposeless until death. No, we act like Jesus. And being like Jesus means we live sent, among the unreached people around us, telling them of the God who saves.
“We talk of the Second Coming; half the world has never heard of the first.” ― Oswald J. Smith
“No one has the right to hear the gospel twice, while there remains someone who has not heard it once.” Passion for Souls, 1957
God sent us good news. He didn’t send us good advice, not good luck, not good energy, but good news, the news we desperately needed. That’s why Jesus was born.