Christmas is a spectacular holiday: the decorations, the classic movies and songs, the excuse to inhale a massive amount of desserts, giving and receiving gifts, and the fellowship of family and friends. If all we had were these festivities it would be a fun holiday, much like July 4thor Halloween. But, Christmas has something more to it. What makes Christmas special isn’t just the “magic” of the season but the meaning of the story.
Christmas begs for celebration not so much because of the holiday activities—though I do enjoy these—but because of the truth-claim it makes. The Christmas story of God becoming Man to save rebellious people from their own destruction tells us a story about humanity’s great dilemma and God’s even greater design to overcome our dilemma.
And equally stunning is that this salvation is God’s free, gracious gift. We receive it by believing in and trusting in Jesus. Faith opens the gift and makes it our own. God designs, sends, accomplishes, and gifts it. We don’t earn it or deserve it. We can’t work for it or pay it back.
Christmas then is not only to be sung about with great joy because of the wonder of the incarnation but because of redemption in Christ alone by grace alone through faith alone. The better our doctrine and the deeper our doctrine the more meaningful and powerful Christmas will become.
This means Christmas, the story it centers on and the truth put forward in that story, is a doctrinal claim. Doctrines are not cold scientific statements detached from human life. Rather, they are truths based on the story of God’s redemptive acts and his word given to reveal himself.
Tim Keller argues this point in his article entitled, “Why Christmas Matters.”In it, he states, “Christmas is frankly doctrinal.” The doctrine of the incarnation is what Christmas is about. This doctrine asserts that the second person of the Trinity, the Son, incarnated himself by being born of a woman and taking on a human body. The Son of God, who was God and was with God (John 1:1), does not give up his full divinity but he takes on humanity (John 1:14), thus becoming one person with two distinct natures so he is truly God and truly man. As Keller states, it’s not only “frankly doctrinal” but it’s “boldly historical.” It’s a truth-claim not only about the events from 2,000 years ago but their life-altering meaning.
Christmas only matters if the story is true, not simply if it leads to warm fuzzies, or happier people during winter, or even to people doing nicer things to one another. Rather, Christmas makes a theological statement of the utmost significance: that God became man because we are so broken that we cannot fix ourselves and yet so loved that the Father would give His Son to redeem us.
Dorotohy Sayers explains why the wonder of Christmas lies in its theological claims.
“It is the dogma that is the drama—not beautiful phrases, nor comforting sentiments, nor vague aspirations to loving kindness and uplift, nor the promise of something nice after death—but the terrifying assertion that the same God who made the world, lived in the world and passed through the grave and gate of death. Show that to the heathen, and they may not believe it; but at least they may realize that here is something that a man might be glad to believe.”- Dorothy Sayers
God humbled Himself to become man and came to earth as a helpless, dependent, newborn baby so that through Jesus man could be restored to God. He took on a body so that body could be offered in our place on a bloody cross as the only means to pay for our sin and reconcile us to God.
Such a story, such a doctrine, proves worthy of a holiday. Remember, Christmas is worth celebrating not because the “holiday season” does or doesn’t provide great memories. It’s worth celebrating because it is a doctrinal claim from the Scriptures about God coming to man as a man so he could bring man to God.