Nestled in the Christmas story is what an angel told Joseph: “[Mary] will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
Don’t skip the last phrase. The implications are profound.
First, it says that people have sins. Does this include you and me? You bet. Do we have sins? I have done things I wish I haven’t. I think you can relate.
Second, it says that people cannot save themselves. This is startling. Many people suppose that when they sin, they just make it up with some good deed somewhere. Doing good is nice, but the sin is still there.
Third, it says that Someone else had to come to save us. When you think about it, if we can save ourselves, then Jesus didn’t have to be born, right?
Our sins have eternal consequences. Someday we will stand in judgment before a loving but holy God. Now imagine His dilemma. Because He is holy and we are not, He has to banish us to a wretched eternity without Him. But He also loves us and wants to forgive.
So how can He satisfy both justice and love? If He just winks at our sins and waives the punishment away. He won’t be holy or righteous. But if He consigns us to everlasting torment, then He won’t be compassionate or forgiving.
Tim Keller described the solution well: “The Gospel is that Jesus Christ came to earth, lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died.”
Call it whatever you will: lateral thinking, outside the box, the middle way. In Jesus Christ, God has made the perfect balance between His holiness and His love. It wasn’t either-or. It was both-and.
The genius of the Christian faith is that salvation is not something we earn (we cannot save ourselves, remember?). Rather, it is given. But like any gift, what was freely offered has to be received. Our response is to accept that gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
It cost Jesus dearly to save us, which we will expound in Holy Week. But meantime, is it any wonder that we celebrate His birth?
May you and your loved ones have a blessed Yuletide season.
Photo credit: Biblia.com
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