We hear this expression a lot around this time of year and we say it a lot, too: “Merry Christmas!” But what is so merry about Christmas, especially when we’re out of work, have a loved one in serious trouble with drugs, or are struggling with a serious illness? The answer is, “Christmas is merry because at Christmas God gave the human race the best present we could ever get: Jesus Christ.” In Jesus, the second person of the Trinity — God the Son — became a human being. Recall that song that asked, “What if God became one of us?” At the first Christmas that is what happened. What did Jesus come from heaven to do?
First, To Tell Us and Show Us that God Loves Us
We have heard the phrase “God is love” so many times over the years we just assume it has to be that way. Not so. God could be indifferent to the needs of people or even be downright mean. We know that God is love because of the many ways He has given us far more than what we deserve and because of the many times He has forgiven us when we deserved punishment. The apostle John writes, “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known (John 1:18). In Jesus, we see love incarnate. In reading Jesus’ words and in reading about Jesus deeds, we see love demonstrated over and over, and in ways to which we can relate.
Second, To Teach the Truths of Heaven in the Language We Speak
My late father, Deacon Hedley Pear-son, once preached a sermon, “How to Talk to a Basset Hound.” Dad, like I continue to do, loved basset hounds but was often frustrated in trying to communicate with his. What to do? Dad’s answer was, “What if I could maintain my human brain, yet somehow become a basset hound? I could express my human thoughts to dogs but as one of them and in a language they speak.”
The unknown writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews wrote to numbers of Christians who were thinking of reverting back to a Judaism without Jesus. In so many ways, the author points out, Judaism was good but Christ is better. Hebrews starts with these words:
In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son…. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of His nature….
Whether it is doctrinal truths or moral commands, Jesus brings to us God’s truths in down-to-earth language. We need that truth revealed to us from one who knows far more than we ever will. A human, not a basset hound, knows when it is time for the dog to go to the vet. An adult, not a little child, knows it is wise not to play in the road. God, not people, knows why certain doctrinal beliefs and moral precepts are true (and therefore good for us), and other beliefs and precepts are not true (and therefore ultimately harmful). It is not arrogant to hold close to what Jesus taught. It’s obedient and it’s wise. It is obedient because Jesus did not give suggestions but commandments. He said, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14).
It is wise because, as Jesus pointed out, the truth makes us free (John 8:32). We know this from life. We want a correct, not just a sincere, medical diagnosis and treatment when we have a serious illness.
What did Jesus come from heaven to do? First, to tell us and show us that God loves us. Second, to speak the truths of heaven in the language we speak.
Third, To Experience the Hurts of Life We All Suffer
Jesus, in His human nature, experienced the various hurts, heartaches and temptations we experience. People He grew up with in His home town synagogue “took offense at Him” (Matthew 13:57). He had no permanent place to call home (Matthew 8:20). “Jesus wept” over the death of His friend, Lazarus (John 11:35). When it comes to temptation, we read, “For because He Himself has suffered and been tempted, He is able to help those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18).
We never should think, “The Lord understands what I’m going through in an intellectual way because He’s God but He doesn’t really know what it’s like.” Jesus came as a baby so He would grow up and experience all the hard knocks of life. In prayer we go to Him as One Who understands.
Fourth, To Heal
Approximately 18 percent of the four Gospels is devoted to healing: Jesus teaching about it, Jesus ministering it, Jesus training others to minister it, His followers ministering, and so on.
Because this is earth, not heaven, we do not now have all the Kingdom benefits we will one day have in heaven, but we have many of them. Some theologians refer to this as the “now, but not yet” nature of the Kingdom. Having said that, the blessings (and healings) available now are substantially greater than many of us have been led to believe.
Fifth, To Model Appropriate (Holy) Behavior
Two generations ago most people knew what was correct behavior. While some people rebelled against it and each individual fell short of it, at least we knew what was right and what was wrong. This consensus has broken down. Many young adult converts to Christianity are astonished when they realize that some of the things they thought were okay are, in fact, not! Plus, reading a list of commandments is helpful to a point, but we need someone to flesh it out for us. Jesus models for us Godly behavior, not out of His divine nature, but out of His human nature which He shares with us.
If it is important for new Christians, converted out of the world’s way of thinking and acting, to go to the Gospels to see how Jesus behaved, it is also important for those of us who have been believers for years to do the same. If we do not do this regularly Jesus starts to take on the image of what we think He should be, and it is that Jesus, not the actual one of the Bible, that becomes our model.
Let’s look at just one example: Many people believe in “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild” and from that false image some suggest we should never show aggression or anger. But Jesus overthrew the money changers and pigeon sellers in the temple, calling these people “robbers” (Matthew 21:12-13). Paul writes it is legitimate to be angry as long as it does not lead to sin (Ephesians 4:26-27).
What did Jesus come from heaven to do? First, to tell us and show us that God loves us. Second, to speak the truths of heaven in the language we speak. Third, to experience the hurts of life we all suffer. Fourth, to heal. Fifth, to model appropriate (holy) behavior.
Sixth, to Die on the Cross in our Place for Our Sins
(See the article “The Crucifix in the Manger,” archived in our website, for another treatment of this topic.)
The chief theme of Scripture is how God in Christ, reconciled the human race to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:16-19). Jesus did this by paying on our behalf the penalty price our sins deserved. By receiving Him as Lord and Savior (John 1:12) the benefits of His atoning work become ours and we are saved for all eternity.
We see this atoning death of Jesus foretold when He was a baby. When Jesus was presented in the temple, Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce through Mary’s soul (Luke 2:22, 35), speaking of the anguish Mary would later have in seeing her Son crucified. When the Wise Men came, among their gifts was myrrh, an item used in embalming the dead (Matthew 2:11).
Six reasons why Jesus came to us, and there are probably more. This Christmas may you and I more fully and richly enjoy Him as our best present. +