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Christmas: A Yearly Reminder of… Not What You Think

“Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation.” J.I. Packer

You may have noticed a certain movie has attracted a little attention in the past week. Haven’t seen it yet but it sure seems that pretty much everyone who has seen it—and this would appear to be the majority of the planet from where I sit—is delirious about it. And since it premiered just before Christmas what’s an ordinary pastor to do in having to preach once again on the familiar story of the Incarnation. Well, no need to feel sorry for us pastors! Packer is right, nothing in fiction is so fantastic as the Incarnation. Nothing. Now, it is not my intention to dampen your enjoyment for The Force Awakens if this movie appeals to you but it is my intention to deepen your appreciation for what is truly fantastic, truly worthy of your deepest affections and full-throated celebration.

My concern for my own soul and for yours is the possibility of being unaffected by the Incarnation simply because we have grown familiar with that which is truly fantastic. One way we can avoid being unaffected by the Incarnation is realizing that the story actually offends and disturbs before it comforts and cheers. That’s right: you don’t get Christmas, you don’t understand the true meaning of Christmas until you are first alarmed, disturbed, and even offended by Christmas. Here’s why. It’s so very important we not miss the purpose of his birth. The angel made this clear to Joseph:

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

Christmas is a yearly reminder of our sinfulness. Yep, our sinfulness. Actually there is no escaping our sinfulness at Christmas, if we accurately understand Christmas. Christmas, when accurately portrayed and proclaimed, is a reminder of our sinfulness, because that is why his birth was necessary and that is why he came. He was born to save from sin. The Incarnation would not have been necessary if it were not for our sin. My sin condemns me and I am not able to atone for it. You are no different. We need a Savior. So the necessity of his birth should alarm and disturb us because it reminds us about the seriousness of our sin. But his birth alone was not sufficient to save from sin. You see, the purpose of Bethlehem was Calvary. The purpose for his birth was his eventual death on the cross for my sin as my substitute, for in my place condemned he stood. So before one can sing and experience tidings of comfort and joy one must first be confronted with the purpose of his birth. Christmas is truly fantastic for those who have been humbled by the news that his birth and eventual death and resurrection was to “save from sin.”

And by the grace of God when we get this it is so appropriate for us to sing loudly and with all our hearts:

Joy to the World, the Lord has come!

No wonder the angel said:

“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10)

And this announcement should leave one comforted in the deepest part of one’s soul, resulting in a celebration of the true meaning of Christmas that makes the opening of a movie appear as trivial as it actually is.

The announcement of his birth isn’t fiction, it’s fact! And for those who understand the purpose of his birth and humbly respond, it’s fantastic!

This post is adapted from a sermon I preached this past Sunday at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville entitled “The Offense of Christmas.”