“‘She will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.’ … All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:21-25).
Today, the true meaning of Christmas is nearly lost in the culture at large. In fact, recent surveys tell us that more and more people are disconnecting Christmas from any religious significance. For most, December 25 is about getting new things and spending time with family and friends. Even among believers, the real meaning of Christmas can often be obscured, so we have to stop and take a fresh look. It’s not just a sweet Sunday school story—the Baby in the manger and the animals gathered around. There’s so much more to it. Christmas is God’s great rescue mission.
The Mission Was Essential
Think with me about mankind’s impossible predicament: We are dead in trespasses and sin, spiritually blind and living in spiritual and moral darkness, under the dominion of the Devil. According to the Scriptures, this is humanity’s condition. Thus, if there’s going to be deliverance, it is essential that we be rescued. Someone is going to have to enter our world from the outside. And that is exactly what the story of Christmas is about.
The Mission Was Planned
Now envision a group of hostages. Their situation is dire, and so is ours. Mankind was being held captive, so there needed to be a plan. The Bible says that this plan was conceived before the world was created. Jesus is proclaimed to be the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world. Seven hundred years before His birth, Isaiah prophesied about the coming Messiah, saying that the Lord would give to Israel a sign—the virgin would conceive and bear a Son and His name would be called Emmanuel.
The Mission Was Costly
So the mission was essential, and the mission was planned; but the mission was also costly. He who existed with God eternally in the form of God took upon Himself human nature. And that human nature was not a temporary arrangement; it was and is permanent. The Son gave up His exclusive deity and added to His deity humanity. This was a step down for Jesus and is what Paul describes in Philippians 2 when he says concerning Christ that He “did not consider it robbery to be equal with God.” He humbled Himself and became of no reputation. He took upon Himself the form of a servant, “coming in the likeness of men.” An element of His glory changed when He became a human being.
The Mission Was Deadly
Think with me again about a rescue mission—it’s dangerous and often deadly. When we view Christmas sentimentally, we miss the fact that the incarnation was the first step toward the crucifixion. We can’t separate these two things. At Christmas, we don’t want to talk about the death of Christ. But the reality is He came to give His life for ours. That’s how the rescue took place. Jesus knew that the manger was the first stop on the way to the cross, but He did it because of His love for us.
The Mission Was Personal
That brings us to the fifth point—the mission was personal. Because mankind is created in the image of God, we are, in that sense, the children of God. We are God’s offspring. The Book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is our older Brother. And the author quotes from the Old Testament, saying that He is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters. So the Christmas story is really the account of the Father sending the older Brother on a rescue mission—to free those who’ve been abducted and are being held captive by their tormentors. It’s a very personal picture. Jesus is on mission to rescue His family.
The Mission Was For You
So if you say, “Well, I don’t see any religious significance to Christmas,” you’re missing the whole point because it is entirely religious in the best sense of the word. It’s about a loving Father who sent His Son on a mission to free you from Satan’s power, to provide forgiveness for your sins, to bring you into a beautiful, personal, eternal relationship with the true and the living God who loves you with an everlasting love, who has a wonderful plan that begins the moment you receive Him.
The Greatest Gift
God’s gift is permanent; it goes on and on and changes lives. His gift takes us out of the realm of darkness and brings us into the light. It takes us from a place of being aimless, with no connection to our Maker, and brings us into a relationship with Him. Christmas is about God making a way for His estranged children to come home. What a glorious thing it is to know Him. Receive that great gift today!