So what’s all the fuss about? Why does Christmas matter?
It certainly matters in our culture. Christmas means family and friends. It means presents and undoing Scrooges. But theologically, what’s the deal?
The average joe knows Jesus was born, but why does that matter?
Here’s a quick attempt at answering the “so what” of Christmas…
A Promise Kept
Christmas is first a promise kept. It matters because God kept his word to all his people. All the way back to Adam and Eve, the representatives of the human race, God promised he would save his people. He would undo sin and death. The Old Testament continues this promise, but it also shows all the messes and mishaps as heroes and heroines rose and fell. But the prophets continued to say a victorious king was coming. At last, at Christ’s coming, the promise was kept. The promised messiah was born. Christmas marks the completion of a millennia of longing.
God with Us
At Christmas we celebrate God with us. This is a radical new theological category. Over against deism and pantheism, we have God with us. Deism says God created, set in motion, and walked away. He is completely other. We have no reason to expect his participation or intervention in the woes of this world. Pantheism says God is everything and everything is God. But there’s no hope here, because he is implicated in the chaos and fallenness of this world. We have no real hope of rescue. But Christmas says God is holy and other, AND he came to us to rescue us. This is radical, audacious, and scandalous. What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
At Christmas we remember real events and a real solution. This is completely unique to Christianity. While other religions and philosophies say, “Here is the way,” Jesus says, “I am the way.” Christianity is not just a set of beliefs or principles. It is a flesh and blood history and occurrence. It is news. It is the proclamation of what God has done in the man Jesus Christ. There really was a baby named Jesus. And he really was born in a town called Bethlehem. And he lived a real life and died on an old roman cross and was raised from the dead. These are historical events. And the freedom and joy we have as Christians is anchored in these realities, not in abstract principles. As Christians, we do not primarily declare a new project but a completed work. At Christmas, we remember the historical life and work of our savior, Jesus the Christ.
Naming the Baby
All of these facets of Christmas are contained in the nicknames given to Jesus. When the angels declare his birth to the lowly shepherds out with their sheep, they call Jesus “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Each of these names corresponds to the points above. Messiah, or “Christ” in Greek, points the the promise kept. “The Lord,” which was the designation reserved for God in the Old Testament, is now applied to Jesus and hints at his divinity, that he is God with us. And of course, “Savior” shows the nature of his life and work: He came to save.
And that’s why the coming of Christ (Christmas) is a big deal.