Growing up, Christmas was the high point of the year: two weeks off school, delicious food, all the Christmas lights and decorations, and presents under the tree promising good surprises. We had family traditions: lighting the advent candles, the Christmas Eve service followed by a special dessert, my dad reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Family enjoying time together. I loved Christmas, even if I did not really grasp its meaning. What I did understand was that it was the culmination of the year for our family. It reminds me of what Hebrews 9:26 says about Christmas: “But he [Jesus] has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Jesus appeared at the culmination of the ages because of a great problem, which required a great gift, which has produced an extraordinary hope for all people. Let me unpack this verse.
The great problem of humanity is not a lack of education, clean water, shelter, or good leaders. These are very real and significant struggles; however, the root problem in the world is sin. People are alienated from God because they have rebelled against Him. All other problems – human alienation, corruption, violence, sickness and pain are all a result of that rebellion. Jesus came “to do away with sin”. He would take away the root cause of human misery by taking away sin. That is why “Joy to the World” connects sin and pain when it says, “No more let sin and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground.” All the trouble of the world can be healed if only sin can be dealt with fully. This healing is why Jesus has appeared.
This great problem cannot be resolved without a great gift. As the verse says, Jesus appeared “to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.” We cannot give a greater gift than ourselves. 1 Peter 1:18 says, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” Jesus gave himself to rescue us. His blood is of far greater value than silver, gold, cryptocurrency, or anything else man could offer.
This great gift gives rise to an extraordinary hope. How needed this is! Many people experience sorrow at Christmas. That sorrow may be from missing loved ones, from sickness and strife, or due to a shortage of resources. Into these and a hundred other situations, Romans 8:32 says, “For Him who did not spare His own son, how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” If God has done the hard thing in sacrificing His son, is there anything else that He will not give to you? Jesus “appeared once for all…” He did this so that everyone can have hope through Him. This is an inclusive word. Hear yourself in that promise. God means for you to have encouragement and hope. We have great problems, but through God’s great gift we have an extraordinary hope!
I grew up knowing Christmas was wonderful, though I did not fully understand why. That wonder only grows as we unwrap the real gifts God has given. Merry Christmas from YBL!