THE TWENTIETH DAY OF DECEMBER IN THE YEAR OF GRACE TWO THOUSAND AND FIFTEEN.
The greatest miracle associated with the birth of Jesus, I suspect, is not the conception of a child in Mary’s virgin womb. No, the greatest miracle in this story is the incomprehensible accomplishment that Christians call the Incarnation–a bona fide reality driving all that happens later and making it all possible. But does it really matter that in Mary’s baby Jesus, the Son of God became a man? Indeed it does, and to answer this question is to discover the true significance of Christmas.
Except for Jesus’ genealogy, the New Testament opens with Matthew’s explanation of Mary’s conception: “The birth of Jesus Christ happened like this” (Matt. 1:18-25). An angel appears to Mary and Joseph individually and informs them that Mary’s son is generated by the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 1: 31-34). Five names or titles provide glimpses of this son’s importance. He is Christ/Anointed, Jesus/Savior, Emmanuel/God with us, Heir of David, and Son of God. His mission is clear: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (I Tim. 1:15). This infant is God’s gift of salvation wrapped in a baby, bringing light to the nations and glory to God’s people Israel (Luke 2:25-32).
Before Jesus was born, there was the Word–the eternal, creative, divine Logos, God with God (John 1:1-5, 14). Then God sent forth His son, the Word became flesh, and Jesus was born of Mary (Gal. 4:4-6; John 1:14). He was in the form of God but he emptied himself and assumed the form of a servant (Phil. 2:5-11). He was rich but he became poor to make his people rich (2 Cor. 8:9).
As God incarnate, Jesus reveals God to humankind (John 1:14,18). As the true light, he enlightens every person (John 1:9). “All the fullness of God was pleased to dwell in him” (Col. 1:19). God prepared a body and Jesus came into the world (Heb. 10:1-14). The man Jesus did God’s will faithfully, and presented his faithful life to God in that body on the cross. It was the greatest present imaginable and it symbolizes what Christmas is all about.