What is Christmas all about? Obviously it has to do with the arrival of Jesus Christ on planet earth. But why did he actually come? Just why was he born? What led him to leave the comforts of heaven to appear in the flesh on this dark and dreary earth?
If you are a church pastor, minister, priest or leader, one of your most important jobs is to teach your flocks about who Jesus is and why he came. So it is especially appropriate at the Christmas season to ask again why it is the Incarnation took place. Why did Jesus visit this planet, and what did he seek to do while here?
We know of course there are plenty of wrong and reckless answers to these questions. Most non-Christians and many liberal believers will offer all sorts of patently false reasons, such as:
-He came to be an example for us
-He came to bring world peace
-He came to be a moral teacher
-He came to show us how to be nice to each other
-He came to spread peace and joy
-He came to tell us how to be good
-He came to promote social justice
-He came so we could all get along
-He came so we could find inner peace and personal fulfilment
-He came so that we might be happy
-He came so that we could get rich
All these answers are certainly NOT what the Bible says concerning the reason for Christ’s coming. Sure, some of these things may be secondary results or fruit of the real reasons he came. But no one reading the New Testament could come away with those rather pathetic reasons.
Why did Jesus come?
Scripture makes it quite clear as to why he came, and the whole of Scripture speaks to this in one way or another. But one way to get a handle on this is to list those passages that tell us exactly why he came. We can just let Jesus and the Bible speak on this.
Here then are some very direct and unequivocal verses on this matter. They are either the very words of Jesus, or the words of others about Jesus.
He came to offer truth and light
John 12:46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
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’.
He came to deal with our sins
Matt 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
1 Tim. 1:15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
1 John 3:5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins.
He came to defeat the devil
1 John 3:8 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.
He came to preach the good news
Luke 4:43 But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”
This last heading pretty much summarises the other three. The gospel is the good news, and the good news involves all the truth that God has revealed to us, including the unpleasant truth that we must hear the bad news before we can get the good news. And the bad news – as shown in some of the passages above – is that we are all sinners.
We are all alienated from God, under his wrath, and heading to a lost eternity. So the primary reason Jesus came is because we are sinners, and that condition means we are in a very bad place indeed. Indeed, we are fully subject to the devil and his wiles, so that is another part of the coming of Christ – to defeat Satan and his works.
Thus when Jesus speaks about spreading light and truth, it is not some vague, undefined feel-good light and truth, but a very specific variety. The darkness of sin, death and the devil is overcome by the light and truth of Christ and what he did on the cross. And that involves other specifics as well: we must appropriate what Christ has done.
Faith and repentance is the biblical response to the work and message of Christ. It does us no good just to hear about what Christ did for us, but then to think that is all there is. No, we must respond to what Christ said and did. Otherwise it is just a nice story.
I recall one Christmas when we were away from home, so we went to a local church. It was a somewhat liberal and non-evangelical church. The minister actually shared in a half-way decent fashion some of the gospel truths concerning the Christmas message.
But then that was it. Instead of tying it all together and telling the congregation, “OK, in light of all this, how will you respond?,” he just sent everyone on their merry or not so merry way. He seemed to see no connection between the Scriptural points he had just shared, and the need for the people there – including us visiting strangers – to latch on to these truths and make them ours.
As I said above, of all people, Christian leaders must get Christmas right. They must have a clear grasp of just what the Bible has to say about the coming of Christ. If we get this wrong we will get everything else about Christianity wrong as well.
Corrie Ten Boom offers us a brief but powerful summary of what this is all about: “Who can add to Christmas? The perfect motive is that God so loved the world. The perfect gift is that He gave His only Son. The only requirement is to believe in Him. The reward of faith is that you shall have everlasting life.”