Christmas: Why Did Jesus Come?

The most important event in human history was the Incarnation – God coming in the flesh to earth in the person of Jesus Christ. That was not only the turning point of human history, but the one true event of cosmic significance. Everything changed when Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem.

Two thousand years on from that momentous day, the world still commemorates his birth. Yet many folks of course no longer really know what Christmas is all about, and why this time of year is so significant. They are quite aware of the commercialisation and so on, but the real meaning is all but lost.

The Bible, which is the record of God’s dealing with mankind, tells us all about the reason for the Incarnation. It makes it perfectly clear why Jesus came to live among us, and to die a cruel death. And it has little to do with various popular conceptions, many even found in our churches.

Jesus did not come to get us to be better people, or to live more moral lives. Indeed, he did not come as some mere moral teacher, urging us to improve, and to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. He did not come to offer generalised platitudes about being kinder or more loving.

He did not come as some religious guru, to offer us religious instruction as so many others had. He did not come to tell us that we are all a rather nice bunch, and that he is happy with how we are living our lives. He did not come to say ‘you can be a better you’ or ‘you can have your best life now’.

He did not come so that we might become rich, succeed in our careers, have a nice new home, be loved and praised by others, or live a trouble-free life. Most of the reasons so many folks give for the arrival of Jesus – and heard often from so many pulpits – have nothing to do with what Christ himself said about his coming.

He came to save us from our sins, and to get us back into a right relationship with God. That was his mission. That was his purpose for coming. Plenty of times he spoke to his reason for being here. Let me offer just a few such passages.

In Matthew 20:28 we read that “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”. And in Luke 19:10 we find Jesus saying this: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

One of the most famous texts of course is John 3:16: “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.” And later in John’s gospel we find these remarks by Jesus: “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness” (John 12:46).

Paul gives us more of the same in 1 Timothy 1:15: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”. And John also speaks to this: “The one 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 devil’s work” (1 John 3:8).

All these texts make it quite clear as to the redemptive nature of Christ’s coming. That is the reason for the season. We are all engulfed in a massive sin problem which none of us can extract ourselves from. We are all dead in our sins and selfishness with no way out.

The works of sin, Satan and darkness had to be overcome if we could ever hope to be set free and made right with God again. That is why Jesus came. He was not on about silly sentimentalism or self-improvement or having a successful life and lots of money. He was on about dealing with our core problem.

That is the Christmas message and that is what we must proclaim. The truth of the Incarnation must be stated clearly and forthrightly to a broken and needy world. Indeed, truth in general must be proclaimed, in a culture that denies truth and is immersed in relativism.

Just yesterday morning in a church in Perth I spoke about these matters. I insisted on the importance of truth, and how believers must lead the way in fearlessly promoting and defending truth. I was told later that there were even several non-Christians in that service and they too were quite moved by the words spoken there.

That is because truth is the means by which God works. He can never work apart from truth. The Holy Spirit in conjunction with the proclamation and living of the truth is the most powerful force on earth. As Jesus plainly taught in John 8:32: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Truth transforms, and believers have an obligation not just in late December but all year round to stand for truth. Indeed, this too is a major reason why Christ came. Recall the words of Jesus in his discussion with Pilate as found in John 18:37:

“‘You are a king, then!’ said Pilate. Jesus answered, ‘You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me’.”

This is why Jesus was born; this is why Jesus came: to testify to the truth. And as you recall, Pilate went on to then ask Jesus, “What is truth?” Incredibly, he did not hang around to get an answer. Here we had perhaps the most important question one could ask, and asked of the most important person to ever walk the planet. Yet he left without hearing the reply!

We dare not be like Pilate. We must learn from Jesus about the truth. And then we must share that with a truth-starved world. People need to hear the truth, not just at Christmas, but every day of the year. We are to be truth-bearers. We are to share the truth of the gospel – always.

So please, explain far and wide to others why Jesus came. Tell people the truth they so much need to hear. That is our calling. That is our mission. Let me finish with the words of Frederick Buechner as he reminds us about the truth of Christmas:

“It is impossible to conceive how different things would have turned out if that birth had not happened whenever, wherever, however it did … for millions of people who have lived since, the birth of Jesus made possible not just a new way of understanding life but a new way of living it. It is a truth that, for twenty centuries, there have been untold numbers of men and women who, in untold numbers of ways, have been so grasped by the child who was born, so caught up in the message he taught and the life he lived, that they have found themselves profoundly changed by their relationship with him.”

[1232 words]

16 Replies to “Christmas: Why Did Jesus Come?”

  1. Speak and share the Truth.
    Gal 6:1 KJV Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
    Judith Bond

  2. Bill – In view of your accurate interpretation of the reason for Christ’s coming to earth, it might be more appropriate to call the crucifixion “the one true event of cosmic significance” rather than the incarnation.. It was the crucifixion that was the “turning point of human history”, in my understanding of the gospel message. I am sure you would agree?

  3. Thanks Lindsay. Of course without the Incarnation there would have been no crucifixion of Christ. The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus are a package deal. All the elements are vital, and all the bits make for the most significant cosmic event in human history.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  4. Thanks Bill,
    I have been a Christian as long as I can remember, yet today your particular words (and no doubt the Holy Spirit’s inspiration) regarding of the true meaning of Christmas message hit home in a different way. At present I’m in a foreign land far away from home. That somehow enabled me to hear the issue of the true Christmas over and above the trivialisation of the season so much clearer, (even though I mus have heard this a thousand times before). before this, all the dressings surrounding Christmas have so overtaken the true real message that I have come to almost avoid Christmas. Yet when, as you said, we remember the real message of sin, redemption and real freedom through a real person (Jesus), it totally changes the understanding of what this joy of Christmas is actually about!
    Thanks for the reminder!

  5. A joyous Christmas and New Year to all. May 2014 begin to see a real breakthrough for all things true and righteous and for a wholesome way of life for all.

  6. Let’s hope and pray that the Duck Dynasty fracas emboldens Christians to fearlessly proclaim the truth about Christmas as Bill exhorts us to do.

    It’s only a small gesture but I always send “Merry Christmas” cards featuring nativity scenes with biblical verses to anybody who sends me a secular “Happy Holiday” card.

    I’m old enough to shake my head at much in contemporary society, but the atheistic secularists’ campaign to rid Christ from Christmas takes the cake for chutzpah.

  7. As you say Bill, Jesus is the reason for the season. Here’s wishing you and your family and readers a happy and peaceful Christmas.

  8. Hi Bill,

    I usually agree with you in what you state in your blogs, but some of these comments in today’s blog need to be elaborated on.
    You say ‘Jesus did not come to get us to be better people, or to live more moral lives.’ I beg to differ. The whole message of the Gospel, indeed the entire Bible, is repentance.
    From the Israelites in the OT up to St. John the Baptist and beyond is a message of repentance; i.e. Jesus implores us, with His grace, to repent and to work with His grace in order to change our sinful ways and be His disciples.
    Therefore, we need to become better people and live more moral lives.
    I’d be interested in your thoughts on my comments.
    Pax et bonum

    Fr Bradley Rafter,
    Wagga Wagga

  9. Thanks Bradley. Of course Jesus preached repentance. Jesus and the disciples had this as a major part of their message. Anyone who regularly reads my articles knows that I say this often. You have sadly misread me therefore. I meant of course that the idea that we can just improve ourselves (“bootstraps,” etc) and just try by our own efforts to be a bit nicer or a bit more moral is hardly the gospel.

    Of course we must improve morally – indeed, Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount (and elsewhere) that we must be perfect, and that even our thoughts and desires are evil and sinful. We are utterly hopeless in other words to reform ourselves, to change ourselves, to redeem ourselves. That is why Christ came – to do for us what we could not do for ourselves in our sinful and fallen condition. If we turn to him in faith and repentance, then we are made right with God through Christ, and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us to help us live a holy, God-fearing life which we simply could not do before on our own.

    I was simply saying that the humanistic and theologically liberal version of events is not the gospel. C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity put it this way: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of thing Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

    Or as he also put it in that important book: “Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms.” Or as it has also been put, “Jesus did not come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people alive.”.

    Lewis puts it better than I obviously, since I have been misunderstood here. Hopefully this answers your question! Merry Christmas.

  10. Some still don’t get it. Some choose to think that sin is not all that big a deal. It’s hard for them to realize that darkness cannot exist in the light. I still thank God that His love for a sinner like me is so great that His Son, Jesus would come to live the perfect, God-pleasing life that I can not.

  11. Hi Bill,
    Merry Christmas to you and your family. As for Jesus’ incarnation, I like to think that it was to facilitate our adoption into Their(Father, Son and Spirits’) family. Ephesians 1 is clear on this. Also John 3:16 is followed by 3:17 where Jesus states that he did not come to condemn the world but to save the world. So from that I get that we are all included in in Christs’ vicarious work here on earth. What happened to Him has happened to us. We are seated at the right hand of The Father in Christ. A mystery? Yes! But one worth living in and being affected by for life.
    Kind regards,
    Lou d’Alpuget

  12. May we all have a holy and blessed Christmas day, acknowledging the risen Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. May we touch our secular friends and witness to them in some way. May the Spirit of God anoint us afresh.
    God bless you Bill and your family and everyone here.

  13. Thanks Lou. Of course it all depends on what you are trying to say here. Given that you are a big fan of Baxter Kruger, who is a sort of theological grandson of Barth, and both these men dangerously dally with universalism, if that is where you are headed here then of course you are quite amiss. Indeed, all you have to do is keep reading in John. The very next verse which you did not give us says this: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

    These folks are not in Christ – they are instead condemned. This and many dozens of other texts make it perfectly clear that we are not all in the Son, or accepted by God. Only those who exercise faith and repentance, and rely on the finished work of Christ are in Him, and accepted in the beloved. All those who refuse to do so are dead in their trespasses and sins, aliens from the Commonwealth of God, objects of wrath, children of disobedience, to use just a few biblical phases. Not everyone chooses to avail themselves of Christ’s offer of forgiveness and redemption, and God most certainly will not drag into His Kingdom those who do not want to be there.

    But Merry Christmas to you as well.

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