The Heidelberg Catechism (1563) asks, “What does [the Apostles’ Creed] mean that Jesus ‘was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary?’” Answer: “That the eternal Son of God, who is and remains true and eternal God, took to himself, through the working of the Holy Spirit, from the flesh and blood of the virgin Mary, a truly human nature so that he might become David’s true descendant, like his brothers in every way except for sin.”
The Catechism then goes on to ask, “How does the holy conception and birth of Christ benefit you?” Answer: He is our mediator, and with his innocence and perfect holiness he removes from God’s sight my sin - mine since I was conceived (i.e. born-again)” ~ HC Q. 35-36.
Dear friends, Christmas, in its essence, is the celebration of the historical fact that two-thousand years ago God sent His only Son to be born of a virgin. The Son of God, born in Bethlehem, became a man without ceasing to be God. He was, and still remains, one person with two distinct natures, fully God and fully man. Jesus is the perfect representation of God to man. Indeed, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the Word of His power” (Heb. 1:3a). Jesus is also the perfect representative of man to God, having fulfilled the requirements of the law and satisfied God’s righteous standards of justice. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (I Tim. 2:5-6a). Christ came from heaven to earth in order to fulfill God’s sovereign plan to redeem us from the power and penalty of our sins. He came from heaven to earth so that, through faith in His life, death and resurrection, we would go from earth to heaven. The Apostle Paul put it this way: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (II Cor. 8:9).
Christmas, rightly understood, is more than just a sentimental feeling. Indeed, Christmas is not something that occurs inside of us, but very much outside of us. Christmas is the time of year when we, as Christians, focus upon an objective event in world history, namely, the miraculous birth of our Savior–– the Maker and sustainer of all things “wrapped in swaddling clothes” (Luke 2:12). When we focus upon this glorious reality, we cannot help but experience true, inner joy, the kind of joy that does not vanish in January, but steadily increases throughout the year, throughout our lives, and throughout eternity.
Jesus was born not merely to give the world a good example to follow. He was born to die for His bride, the Church (Eph. 5:25). He died “because God’s justice and truth [demanded] it; only the death of God’s Son could pay for our sin” (HC Q.40).
Therefore, dear members and friends of Christ Church, let us concentrate our hearts and minds this Christmas upon the incarnation and birth of our Savior. This Christmas, may our hearts and imaginations be captured afresh with the “good news of great joy,” that born in the city of David was Jesus the Messiah, and in Him, through faith, we have peace with God (Luke 2:10-11).
Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a king,
born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal Spirit rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit, raise us to thy glorious throne.
- Charles Wesley, 1744