What do you consider most significant about Christmas? Many people would say visiting with relatives, attending parties, or giving and receiving gifts. For believers, however, Christmas is far more than a December holiday with time off from work. It is a personal promise from God to mankind.
The significance of this special day is embodied in two scriptural names. In the first chapter of Matthew, an angel of the Lord told Joseph that Mary, his fiancée, would bear a son conceived of the Holy Spirit. He instructed Joseph to name the child “Jesus” (v. 21). He also announced that the birth would fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy: “‘They shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means ‘God with us’” (v. 23, referring toIsaiah 7:14).
Let’s examine the two names in this passage—Jesus and Immanuel. The name “Jesus” is a transliteration of the Old Testament Hebrew wordJoshua, meaning “the Lord is salvation.” When the angel said, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (v. 21), he was pointing to the significance of that original Christmas: God provided a solution for your sin and mine, as well as for the sin of the entire world—past, present, and future.
Seven hundred years before Christ’s birth, Isaiah’s prophecy was a word of hope and encouragement to Judah as it faced a great crisis. The prophet’s message was an indication of what God was about to do then as well as what would ultimately be fulfilled in the Messiah’s advent.Immanuel, a name full of promise, was God’s way of assuring the Old Testament saints that He was with them. Taken together, these two names encompass what we need for our entire life: Jesus, the pardoner of our sins, and Immanuel, the divine presence within us to help and guide every moment of every day. The names and the promises in them are the foundation for every facet of Christian life.
So how did God engineer that first Christmas to fulfill the promises of Jesus and Immanuel? His method was the incarnation. On the night Christ was born, the eternal God—motivated by love—entered the human family. He was supernaturally conceived by the Holy Spirit and physically born of a virgin. Jesus never ceased to be God, and He remained perfectly sinless in His being.
If the incarnation hadn’t taken place exactly as it did, then we would still be living in our sin. According to Scripture, the punishment for sin is death (Rom. 6:23). The Bible also says that God rejects any imperfect sacrifice (Deut. 17:1). Jesus, because of His absolute sinlessness, is the only one who could save us by offering Himself as a payment for our sin debt.
Apart from the birth of God in human flesh, every one of us would have to stand before God with all of our sin resting upon us, and our sins would separate us from Him (Isa. 59:2). So the incarnation is the promise of Jesus—“the Lord is salvation”—for every person in the world.
But that was not the full extent of God’s awesome plan. He also promised us His presence, which was fulfilled in the birth of Immanuel. Jesus was “God with us,” the incarnate Deity, who physically lived and walked among men to show us what the heavenly Father is like.
Before His crucifixion, Jesus encouraged His disciples with the promise of God’s indwelling presence. Christ said that when He went away, He would ask the Father to send the Spirit of truth, who “abides with you and will be in you” to teach, remind, comfort, and guide every step of the way (John 14:17, 26).
Far better than God simply being “with me” is God within me, for me, and through me! And that is His promise to every generation of believers—the incomparable, supernatural, immeasurable God will take up residence inside us and be everything we need. Once He lives within you, there will never be a time you have to walk without Him (Heb. 13:5).
In light of the wonderful promise of God’s redemption and presence, believers should be confident and courageous. We don’t have a single need He can’t satisfy. How can we worry when the sovereign, almighty God is with us?
So this year, as you gather on Christmas morning, I encourage you and your family to kneel and give thanks to almighty God. The incarnation is the very essence of Christmas. There’s nothing wrong with the gifts or festivities, as long as they don’t crowd out what belongs in first place: Christmas is about God breaking into humanity, shattering time, and becoming life and hope and help to all mankind.
- I’ve heard the Christmas story many times, is it possible I’m missing something?
- Why did God choose a manger instead of a palace for Christ’s birth?
- What does our response to Christmas say about our view of God?
- Why is Jesus known as the “name above every other name”?
- Is peace possible at Christmastime?
- What was the first gift ever given at Christmas?
Why did Jesus—God Incarnate—come to earth? (Listen to Jesus—His First Appearance now.)