The Meaning of Christmas in the 21st Century (Part 1)

The meaning of Christmas is the same today in 2021 as it was on the night that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. I thought I would share my thoughts briefly as we enter the Christmas season. I am organizing my thoughts around two points:  (1) the issue of death, and (2) the conjoining of the First and Second Advents in Scripture.  In this blog I will deal with the first and then later add a blog on the second point I want to make.

Lately, I have been listening often to the recent song by Casting Crowns entitled “Scars in Heaven.” It is a very moving presentation of loss through death but also a hope that overcomes it. In March of 2018, I witnessed the death of my twin brother Jimmy. Although I think of him often, around the holidays the memories come in a flood. He painfully suffered from cancer that was ravaging his body. When I first saw him in hospice, my prayers immediately changed from “God, please heal him” to “God, please take him home and stop the suffering.” Twenty-four hours later he was with Jesus. When I preached his funeral later that week, I told the audience that had gathered that death is obscene. It is our great enemy. It is the product of the curse. As the Apostle Paul told us, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26). Death is truly our adversary. The removal of death from the world will take place in the eternal state after the end of the millennium (Rev. 21:4). All of us who know Christ, unless we live to see the rapture of the Church, will go to see the Lord by way of death, some sooner than later.

Yet, this curse with its resulting physical and spiritual death is the creation of God Himself who instituted it because of sin. The history of mankind has overwhelmingly proven that we deserve this punishment by God.  It seems to hang over us mercilessly.  It is the real pandemic, not Covid.  But God, who truly loves the world (John 3:16), did not leave us without hope.  That is one thing that Christmas, the birth of Jesus, demonstrates. God sent His Son into the world to remove the curse.  As verse 3 of the famous Christmas hymn “Hark the Herald Angels Sin” reminds us, “Born that man no more may die; born to raise the sons of earth; born to give them second birth.” Jesus did many things in His incarnational life.  But the primary act that He performed was to die as a substitute for our sin and help us to overcome death and the curse. Jesus became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). How is all of His work on the Cross applied to us?  It by grace alone through faith alone. We must never forget this. God gives us something we don’t deserve (removal of spiritual and physical death and the curse) through faith, that is, through trusting what Christ has done as payment for your sin.  That was true in the world over 2000 years ago when Jesus was born.  It is still true today. It was always God’s plan that Christ would wear eternal scars so that we do not have to endure the scars of death and sin.

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