If you were to go out to a busy shopping center and start asking people â€œWhat is Christmas all aboutâ€ you might get a number of different answers. Some of them might tell you â€œThe presents!â€ Especially perhaps the younger kids. Others, more wizened by the years would respond, â€œFamily!â€ While others would give various answers, and I’ve heard them all from, â€œMaking moneyâ€ – you’d hear people in retail say that. Or they’d respond with some mixture of: Christmas is all about love and world peace; Snowmen, Santa-Claus, reindeer and sleigh bells; warm fireplaces, credit card bills, shameless extravagance or clearing a spot in the children’s room to make way for the new dump truck full of toys coming in from Grandma and Grandpa.
Most people, even Christians this time of year can connect with the plight of a woman who was out Christmas shopping with her two children; after many hours of looking at row after row of toys and everything else imaginable, and after hours of hearing both her children asking for everything they saw on those many shelves, she finally made it to the elevator with her two kids.
She was feeling what so many of us feel during the holiday season time of the year—overwhelming pressure to go to every party, every housewarming, taste all the holiday food and treats, get that perfect gift for every single person on our shopping list, make sure we don’t forget anyone on our card list, and the pressure of making sure we respond to everyone who sent us a card.
Finally the elevator doors opened and there was already a crowd in the car. She pushed her way into the car and dragged her two kids in with her and all the bags of stuff. When the doors closed she couldn’t take it anymore and stated, “Whoever started this whole Christmas thing should be found, strung up and shot.”
From the back of the car everyone heard a quiet, calm voice respond, “Don’t worry. We already crucified him.”1
How easy it is to forget the reason, the purpose, the function of â€œthis whole Christmas Thing.â€ Think about the reasons we celebrate the way we do. I’d wager most of how we celebrate this holy season comes not from a sincere desire to praise God for his gift of Christ to mortal men and women, but is instead fueled by a shameless consumerist greed.
We sing â€œO, Holy Night.â€ in anticipation of Christmas but our anticipation is the presents, the packages and everything but Jesus. Have you ever stopped to wonder if for the moment, what is God’s purpose for the incarnation?
The incarnation is the theological term for what happened When God became a man. In Luke 1, the angel Gabriel visited Mary and informed her that God has chosen her to be the mother of the Messiah. Mary humbly submits herself to this auspicious task but wonder’s how such an event can occur. Gabriel never tickles our fancy he merely informs of the truth. â€œThe Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.â€ When the eternal took on time and space and mortal flesh, He emptied himself and became flesh.
John tells us in his opening prologue that the Eternal â€œWord became flesh and dwelt among us.â€
What was God’s earth shattering purpose for the incarnation? Could it possibly be that Christ came to earth to foster our greed every December 25th? Could it possibly resonate with truth that The arrival of the Son of the Almighty one in the thunderless silence of humility is a token gesture that God is willing to be ignored as we pursue everything but Him?
God’s purpose for the incarnation wasn’t so that he could be cute and packagable for our benefit. Neither was God’s purpose for the incarnation so that the Incarnate one could ease the suffering of people by causing the blind to see, the lame to walk and healing the diseases of the flesh. God’s purpose for the incarnation supersedes these things and forces us to a resolute worship of His inestimable glory.
God’s purpose for the incarnation of Christ can be summed up in the elements of Communion that we celebrate today. Jesus did not come as a baby so that he might live, but so that he might die. Jesus came so that we might not die, but that we might live.
God tells us in Matthew 5:17 that Jesus came to fulfill the law. The Law of God reveals God’s Holy and righteous standard, not so that we can keep all the letters and somehow earn his approval; but rather to demonstrate to us once and for all that we are incapable of keeping the law. Jesus came to fulfill all that the law said, not the least of which is the command that sin demands the death penalty.
Matthew 10:34 tells us that Jesus came to bring a sword â€“ to cut through right and wrong, to declaratively uphold right over wrong. The results of the division â€“ that wrong is always wrong and right is always right is that division will unalterably come.
In Mark 1:38 Jesus tells the disciples that he came to preach the good news.
In John 9:39 he tells the pharisees that he came for judgment.
In John 10:10 Jesus contrasts himself with Satan. As the thief, Satan comes to steal kill and destroy, Jesus came that we might have life to the fullest.
In John 12:27 as Jesus begins to struggle with the looming cross he reveals to his disciples, that his purpose for coming was that cross.
Every purpose that Christ reveals points to his crucifixion. The fulfillment of the law, the clear declaration of right and wrong and the resulting division, the preaching of the good news which the cross infuses with power, the judgment of the Pharisees, bringing life to the fullest; all of these point to one thing the relentless pursuit of the Cross. Jesus didn’t come to create a holiday â€“ he came to bring redemption; the holiday we celebrate is meant to be a reflection of the Glorious hope of the cross unveiled to us the night that Jesus was born.
God’s Purpose for the Incarnation â€“ is nothing less than our redemption.
For centuries the priests had gone day after day into the temple and had sacrificed cattle, lambs, goats, pigeons, doves. The blood of millions of animals fell to the ground, countless Israelites laid their hopes on God receiving their sacrifice and cleansing their dirty souls. Every stroke of the knife, every sacred vessel, every carefully scripted ceremony, every sacrifice looked forward to the incarnation of the Son of God, and beyond that to the Final sacrifice of the incarnated one.
The glorious wonder of Christmas is the Glorious wonder of the Cross, The Grave and The resurrection. Whithered souls need wait no longer for the refreshing caress of God’s living Water.
God’s purpose for the Incarnation? Redemption! Let’s celebrate that redemption together with Communion.
I’m going to ask David to come and lead us in Hymn number 287 â€“ A Communion Hymn for Christmas. And as we finish the Song, we’ll have the men come and prepare to serve the elements of communion.