One of the reasons why we love Christmas is that it seems to be a time filled with wonder. There is the wonder of compassionate giving and beautiful music and a feeling of peacefulness. Sometimes there is even a temporary truce between warring nations … or warring family members.
But without a doubt, the greatest marvel of the Christmas season is the absolutely stunning doctrine of the union of the divine and the human in the person of Jesus. The Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) clearly states the truth about this wonder of wonders:
The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did . . . take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin.
We do not say that Jesus was half divine and half human, but that He was completely God (“In him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” – Col 2:9) and completely man (“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” – Jn 1:14). If we want to teach our children wonder during the Christmas season, let us teach them about the amazing, mysterious unity of divinity and humanity in Jesus. The story of a bearded man riding on a sleigh to give presents to the world’s children pales as being trifling next to the mystery of Christ. Truth is, indeed, more wondrous than fantasy.
But why was it necessary that the eternal Son of God should become a man? Why is the Christmas story an absolute necessity for us? Our eternity depends on the truth of the incarnation of God the Son and the more clearly we understand this mystery, the fuller our joy in our standing as Christians … the deeper our strength … the richer our daily experience with God … the greater our pleasure in rejoicing in His glory … the more wonderful our Christmas season.
First, it was necessary that the sacrifice for our sins be a man because it was a man who sinned. Adam was our representative as head of the human race. Romans 5:12 says that sin entered into the world through one man and in him “all sinned.” Therefore, bulls and goats can never be an appropriate and acceptable sacrifice because they are animals … amoral creatures which do not reflect the image of God. “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb 10:4). Just as Adam was our representative (our sinful representative), if we are going to be acceptable to God, we must have another representative who will be perfectly obedient. Thus it was necessary that Jesus be truly human.
Further, God the Son had to become a man so He could die. God, being life, cannot die. Charles Wesley’s great hymn “And Can It Be?” captured this marvelous truth.
‘Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies! Who can explore His strange design? In vain, the firstborn seraph tries to sound the depths of love divine!
Amazing love! How can it be, that Thou, my God, should die for me?
Second, it was necessary that the sacrifice for our sins be divine because the person we have offended is God. As God, He is an infinite being. This means that the penalty for rebellion against God is an infinite penalty. No finite being could ever satisfy the holiness of an infinite God. And the holiness of God will not allow Him to simply turn away from sin and look the other way. If He is just, sin must be punished. So only a sacrifice of infinite value is enough to be sufficient to fulfill the justice of a limitless God.
The story of Christmas is the story of the need for a God-Man, if a single person will ever experience eternal life. The birth of Christ displays, in profound and astonishing detail, the surprising wisdom of God. It is quite astounding that His plan of salvation would center on the union of divinity and humanity in God the Son. Beloved, let us, again this season, revel afresh in the beauty and dominion and perfections and glory of the infant in Bethlehem’s manger. He is more thrilling and amazing and satisfying than we can even imagine!
In humble adoration before the King,