Most people assume they understand something about the meaning of Christmas...even people from other religious traditions and beliefs. Most Christians believe they know the meaning of Christmas. Most pastors believe they know the meaning of Christmas. But is that true? Most people can tell you Christmas is about the birth of Christ. Some can even tell you God sent His Son as a gift to save us from our sins at that time. But it turns out that people's views of Christmas are all over the place. There are literally hundreds of ideas about Christmas out there. Some of them may have elements of truth to them, but a lot of the beliefs, even in the Church, can be very sketchy, lack clarity, are often culturally conditioned and some are even heretical. This leads to an interesting question: what does it mean to say "Merry Christmas"?
Recent national polls of evangelical churches have revealed some shocking things that expose the deeper issues behind the problems connected to understanding the real meaning of Christmas. These polls have discovered that about 78% of the evangelical church world believes Jesus is the greatest being created by God. In other words, Jesus is not God in human flesh or Emmanuel (God with us) according to Matthew 1:23, but only the greatest of God's creations. That belief, by the way, is the great heresy of Arianism from the 4th century that has come back as the modern cult of Jehovah's Witnesses. Arianism or modern Jehovah's Witnesses rejects the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity, which teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ is God the Son in human flesh. The Nicene Creed was written to stop this heresy from destroying the Church at the time....and even now. This fact leads to the truth that if our views about Jesus are wrong we can't understand or experience the real meaning of Christmas. That means that the vast majority of people sitting in our churches today do not hold to a Christian confession of faith. Those unbiblical beliefs reject the Christmas story entirely and make it into something else. So a truly Biblical faith about Jesus and the real purpose of Christmas is everything. And yet you rarely hear that today in a Church world that seems to pay little attention to Christian doctrine. People seem more interested in "reaching people" for the Lord, but we must ask with what message about the Lord.
The real meaning of Christmas is explained in this verse from Galatians 4:4 that says,
But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
In this passage, the Apostle Paul tells us that Jesus was "born of a woman". You notice that Paul does not mention a man, but only a woman. Our Lord was born of the Virgin Mary, outside of human sin that was passed on from the first man, Adam. Our Lord's Father was God, not Joseph as the Bible is clear to tell us in Matthew 1:16. Joseph was only Mary's husband and our Lord's adoptive father. If Joseph had been Jesus' biological father, our Lord would not have been God, but just another fallen person like all of us that could not provide us with the sinless Savior we all need for our redemption from sin.
Paul goes on to tell us that our Lord was "born under the law" to "redeem those under law". These short phrases are a reminder that Jesus was born under the obligation and responsibility of God's law. In other words, Jesus took on keeping the law of God for us as our human representative. You see, none of us were able to keep the law on our own because we were fallen, and our natures could not do it according to Romans 8:3-4. All of us lack the spiritual power to keep and obey God's laws as intended. We all need help, we all need a Savior to redeem us and bring us back into God's presence and fellowship. Our Lord's birth, life and eventual death on the cross gave us a legal way that would not ignore the law's just requirements. Our Lord needed to be God the Son, because only God could fully pay for the sins of humanity as our representative. That is why Jesus can't just be a created being. Jesus had to be the Creator because all sins are against Him, not created beings, and all sins could only be paid for by Him alone who has enough to pay.
But if you stop and think a little more about the real meaning of Christmas, it contains an even more glorious series of truths. It turns out that Christmas becomes the story of how God gave us THE life we all really wanted and needed as a gift of grace. All of us are looking for the perfect, sinless life. None of us want to be left in a fallen place, full of sins and constantly living in a morally confused or compromised place. None of us want to be left with shame and guilt as we face each day. None of us want to leave this world and head off into eternity to meet God unsure of our standing in life or with God at the end. All of us want 100% assurance that we have lived a perfect life that was and is acceptable to God. That perfect was only lived by Jesus and we get it as a gift at Christmas. Our Lord became one of us and lived from conception the perfect, human life free of sin. Jesus never sinned and not only didn't sin but did everything right and perfectly kept all of God's laws and commandments.
So, the glory of Christmas is that we get the perfect life given to us as a gift. That is the real meaning behind saying "Merry Christmas" whether people understand it or not. That is what everything in this season and everything in life is really about. We get Jesus' life as our own. That means right now, that if we have received Christ as our Emmanuel we have a new and eternal standing with God that is the same as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself in His humanity. Once we begin to grasp that awesome truth about Christmas we can rejoice forever more. We never need to live in sin, fear or condemnation ever again. The greatest and most perfect human life that ever lived in our Lord is ours to enjoy today and forever. That is the miracle of the Christmas message in the Lord Jesus Christ.
As we stop for a moment to think more deeply on the real Christmas message it must be clear to us how few people today have really stopped and thought about the magnitude of the story and what it means for our lives. We have lost the glory of that truth and replaced it with traditions, Christmas programs and parties.
So as Christmas 2020 arrives this month, I hope and pray that everyone understands what Christmas is all about. It would be tragic to miss the wonder of what the Lord had designed Christmas to be about and end up with a counterfeit. Perhaps this Christmas is a time to remind others we know and love about the real meaning of Christmas. That might happen with our family, in our church or even with our pastor.
How can any person really remain the same when they understand the real meaning of Christmas? So, let's sing, rejoice and have the best Advent and Christmas ever. There is NO message like it and there never will be or could be. Only God Himself could put together such a glorious message and plan for this world. So "Merry Christmas" from the Carlson Report to you and your family.