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Christmas is about the doctrine of the incarnation… God becoming human. One of my favorite Christmas carols is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. This carol helps us to understand what Christ’s birth was truly about:
“O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free,
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory o’er the grave.
O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer,
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.”
Isaiah 9.1-2, “But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.” Jesus’ birth shone a light not only on those who dwelt in darkness, but illuminated the cross. His birth that glorious night illuminated the cross, for He was born to die. As we have seen elsewhere in the New Testament, Jesus’ birth was a humble act of condescension. Paul teaches in Philippians 2 that Jesus “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” His Incarnation was for our salvation. He was born to free his own from Satan’s tyranny, to save His people from the depths of hell and give them victory over the grave! He came to ransom His captive people, not in power and might, but by becoming man, taking the form of a servant and living a life of perfect obedience to and love for God with his birth and life continuously illuminating the cross. It is wonderful to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but you cannot understand the significance of the manger at Bethlehem unless you see it in light of the cross at Calvary. The focus of the New Testament is not Bethlehem, but Calvary. Everything goes out of focus during Advent if you leave off the cross. The Christmas season loses its purpose and meaning when we don’t let its light illuminate the cross. Matthew 20.28 says, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus was born to die and His mission was accomplished by his being born to ultimately give his life, for even in Matthew’s account of the narrative of Jesus’ birth his mission is the focus, not just his birth! He WILL save His people from their sins (1.21)!! The one who was born to “save his people from their sins” lived his life with one eye always on accomplishing his mission by way of the cross. How did he ransom captives, give us victory over the grave and put to flight death’s dark shadows? He was born to die.