You've heard it a million times: "Jesus is the reason for the season!" You've probably seen the catchphrase on a Christmas ornament hanging right above Snoopy on ice skates. Maybe you've seen it on a Christmas sweater, in a meme on Facebook, or painted on a sign as part of someone's holiday light display. It's cute, it rhymes, and therefore it must be effective for reminding everyone of the dangers of consumerism that is so prevalent this time of year... right?
However, just like the theologically rich Christmas Carols that get mixed into the Christmas playlist and broadcast over the loudspeakers in the malls each year, the profound truth of this little cliché is generally lost on most people. Even when the phrase is accepted, it often means that Jesus becomes a trite add-on to our celebrations. Do the “spiritual” thing and read Luke 2, sing Happy Birthday to Jesus, and then get on with the rest of the party.
Does the world (and do we) really know why Jesus is the reason for the season? Do we fully understand who Jesus is and what he came to do? Or is Jesus another cute addition to our nativity scenes and Hallmark movie-style nostalgic pageants? Do we stare with the same wide-eyed wonder of a child coming down the stairs on Christmas morning when we consider the depth of the awesome reasons why Jesus came into the world?
Thankfully, Jesus did not leave us guessing about why he came. On frequent occasions he said, "For this reason I came into the world...," clearly pointing to the reason for the incarnation (the Son of God taking on human nature) that we celebrate at Christmas. The ways he finished that sentence were varied, and at times surprising.
For example, “Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind” (John 9:39, ESV). I know it doesn’t inspire you to get out the cocoa and marshmallows and snuggle up next to the fireplace, but this is a Christmas verse. The eternal Son of God came into the world through the birth canal of a woman for the sake of judgement.
But what does that mean? When you look at this purpose statement in context, it means that Jesus himself is the revelation of God by which all men will be judged. He is the Light who gives sight to those who understand they are spiritually blind without him, and he reveals the utter blindness of those who think they are spiritually fine without him.
That Jesus candle at the candle lighting service takes on new meaning when you read John 9:1-41. His light is a source of judgement.
Jesus came in human flesh because we could not work our way to him as hard as we might try. He demonstrated, through his perfect sinless life, that God’s standard of righteousness is unattainable in our sinful nature. His nature and message demonstrated just how far our hearts are from him. But the good news, according to Jesus, is that, “…I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:13, ESV).
Jesus didn’t come for those who had it all together like most people want to portray through their family Christmas cards. He came for those who were messy. He left heaven’s throne and was laid in an animal feeding trough for those who knew they needed him. He came for those who would look on him and believe. He said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. … For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”” (John 6:38–40, ESV)
For Jesus to raise us sinners up, he had to first pay our ransom. That’s the best truth of Christmas. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, ESV). The flesh and blood of the baby that was laid in a manger would grow into a man and be nailed to a cross. His flesh would be broken and his blood would be spilled, paying the debt of death (spiritual and physical) that we deserved for our sin. He would rise again and forever live and reign in a body, albeit glorified, interceding for us his people.
That is the ultimate reason for the season. And not just the Christmas season. Every season. We cannot allow Jesus to be a trite add-on to our Christmas celebrations or to our lives. He must take central place. So raise your tree, eat your cookies, drink your eggnog, but do it all to the glory of the one who purposefully came for you, died for you, and rose again, and reigns even now in glory as the incarnate Son of God.
Join us each Sunday at 9am through the 2022 Christmas season to discover the full depths of "The Reason for the Season."