Recently, an atheist posted on a billboard in Times Square NYC, “Who Needs Christ During Christmas? Nobody”, with the word Christ crossed out. In a debate on Fox TV, the atheist said that if you want to go to church fine, but the season should not force people to go, and it was alright to enjoy Christmas without acknowledging Jesus as the focus and purpose of Christmas. Whatever!!
Leaving this aside, one can get caught up in the celebration of Christmas and can forget what Christmas is really about. There are three reasons why Christmas is significant.
First, Christmas is a celebration of an answer to the evil of mankind. Because there is a God, there has to be answer to the evil and sin that men do. There has to be an answer to the pain caused by murders, rapists, thieves, abusers of all types, bullies, con artists, liars and all that do wrong, both big and small. Otherwise, what is the value of life? Those who suffer have to be avenged. But more important, a totally just God must be avenged for the evil done in His presence. From this fact, from Adam through Jesus, animal sacrifices were instituted. Goats, birds, lambs and all sorts of animals that were without blemish were killed and their blood atoned for the sins of men. The point being, there was an answer. But animal sacrifices were imperfect.
Second, Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for the sin of mankind. Jesus was perfect because His bloodline was perfect. His father was God and God impregnated Mary. So Jesus was born a perfect man with no blemish. He was the fulfillment of the old sacrifice system of animals. He lived a perfectly sinless life, but when He died on the cross, God placed on Him all the sin of all mankind from Adam to Him, and from Him to all who would live after Him, just as in the old system of animal sacrifices, when the priest placed the sin of men on the animal. In doing so, the perfection of Jesus was transferred to mankind and the sin of mankind was placed on Jesus. The significance of Jesus is not in His life, (as important as it was), but it’s in His death, which fulfilled the required judgment of God for sin. The proof of God’s acceptance of this perfect once-and-for-all sacrifice is Easter – the rising of Jesus from the dead. This is why the point of Christmas is not simply the birth of a famous man named Jesus.
Third, and now here is the hard part. All that is said in reason two, and outside of the observation that man is evil, all that is said in reason one, requires faith that is beyond human reason. I cannot prove Jesus was the son of God as a mathematician can prove the angles of triangle. No one can. Christmas is the celebration of the fact that man can know, believe and accept (just as a side note, these words are not synonyms) perfect forgiveness by accepting and receiving the sacrifice of Jesus. Christmas is a celebration of faith in a just God who sacrificed his Son to rectify man to Himself and who settled the harsh requirement of judgment of sin and the evil of mankind. Mankind had hell to pay and God sent His Son to pay it.
Put simply, it is true that Christmas is a time of celebration with family, friends and loved ones. It is a time to make peace with others, to give presents and gifts to others. It’s a time to love. All true. But it should not be forgotten that it’s also a time of celebration that mankind has received blessing (getting what one does not deserve) and grace (not getting what one does deserve).
Dr. Arthur Garrison is an assistant professor of criminal justice at Kutztown University. This piece is the work of Dr. Garrison and does not reflect the opinions or Kutztown University or its faculty, staff, students or alumni.