Christmas was declared a national holiday in the United States on June 26, 1870. It is interesting that Alabama was the first state to make Christmas a state holiday in 1838. And Oklahoma was the last state to officially declare it in 1907 when it became a state. We celebrate Christmas on December 25, but it is very unlikely that Jesus was actually born on that day. The appearance of the shepherds strongly suggest that Jesus was born sometime in early fall. Apparently, the early Christians did not emphasize the birth of Jesus as much as they did His death celebrated on Easter. However, tradition has it that Christmas began to be emphasized around 336 A. D. when it first appeared on the Roman calendar. The date may have been chosen because it was close to the celebration of the arrival of the Magi after Jesus’ birth, known as Epiphany on January 6.
For many in the world, Christmas is just a holiday for the gathering of family and friends. But for Christians, it is a sacred holiday which celebrates the birth of the God-man who left heaven and took on human flesh in order to be the savior of the world. He came to offer Himself as a sacrifice to satisfy the wrath of God and allow forgiveness of sin to be a reality. The baby born in the manger was no ordinary baby. The Angel of the Lord told the virgin Mary that she would be giving birth to none other than the “Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32). The Angel told Joseph to name this child “Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21). Jesus, as both fully God and fully man, was the only one who could offer a satisfactory sacrifice to save mankind from their worst enemy, namely sin and the judgment of God.
We must remember that Christmas was preplanned by God Himself before the foundation of the world. And in fact, Christmas with all its meaning finds its roots not in the manger, but in the garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden they immediately died spiritually in their relationship with God, and also began to die physically. God had warned them that the consequences of sinning against Him was death (Gen 2:17). When this happened, God in His holiness and justice had a right to kill both of them immediately. And yet we see that God was merciful to them. Adam and Eve unsuccessfully tried to cover their shame through their own efforts by sewing fig leaves together (Gen 3:7). But God in His infinite grace toward them found a substitute to pour his justice and wrath upon instead of the first couple. Sin had to be dealt with, so in the garden God took a substitute animal and killed it instead. He then took the skins of the animal and clothed Adam and Eve (Gen 3:21). This act was a foreshadowing of the great sacrifice of His own Son which would come in God’s perfect timing (Gal 4:4-7) and provide the ultimate sacrifice for sin.
God’s plan for a future substitute and the first Christmas was then revealed to Adam and Eve and to the rest of us in what is known as the protoevangelium, or the “first” (proto) “good news” (evangelium). Genesis 3:16 is the first record of the good news of God’s salvation for sinners. God spoke the curse to Satan saying, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” God was telling Satan, that there was going to come a human offspring that would have his heal bruised by Satan, but that this offspring would bring a death blow to the head of Satan. This was God’s way of promising Christmas! The offspring of Mary particularly was the fulfillment of this prophecy. It was Jesus who destroyed the devil and the works of the devil.
Christmas and the sending of Jesus into the world is God’s gift to the world (John 3:16). And this gift was not an afterthought, but rather God’s plan from the beginning. God, being all-knowing, knew that humanity would rebelliously sin against Him. But God wanted to display His love, grace and mercy to a world of sinners and offer them forgiveness. It was only in this plan that mankind could fully understand the glorious nature of an eternally good, gracious and forgiving God.
Sadly, many in the world today will not accept this Christmas gift of God in Jesus Christ (Rom 6:23). God gave Jesus, His only Son, as a substitute just like He did in the Garden of Eden. Just like God killed the animal as a substitute, God poured His own wrath on His own son and made Him bear the sins of His people (1 Peter 2:24, Is 53:4-5). Instead of receiving the provision of God, many will try to cover their shame with the leaves of their own self doing. The worst thing anyone can do is to reject the free gift of salvation which is in Jesus Christ alone, and try to sew fig leaves together in their own efforts. All of our good works are no good! All of our works ultimately fall short and are insufficient to reconcile us to a holy and just God. There is only “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5). I hope that you have received God’s Christmas gift for you. There is no greater gift than the forgiveness of your sin. This gift is received by repenting (turning from) of your sin and putting your faith or trust in Jesus Christ. The Bible is clear. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:9). For all who realize sinfulness and need of saving, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ shall be freely given eternal life. This is God’s Christmas gift to the world. Merry Christmas to you all! I would love to hear from you, especially if you need to talk about spiritual issues. You can contact me at [email protected]