The last TV show I saw that tried to proclaim the “real meaning of Christmas” was a typical failure. Someone stammered, “Getting the family together, that’s what Christmas is all about.” You would think that the first six letters in the word Christmas would be a big hint, but apparently not.
In my opinion the best verse on the real meaning of Christmas is 1 Timothy 1:15. This verse is tragically underused. But here the Apostle Paul absolutely nails what Christmas is all about. He writes:
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”
Christmas is about Christ. But even more, Christmas is when we celebrate the Son of God coming into this world and becoming a genuine human being—without ceasing to be fully God. Jesus did this in order to glorify Himself by saving sinners, and to do that He had to live the perfect human life that none of us lived and then die the death that we deserved, in our place.
The reason for Christmas is that Jesus came into this world to save sinners like you and me. The reason for Christmas is Good Friday and Easter. Jesus was born to die.
It is amazing that God would come into this world.
Think about this verse. We should be amazed even if it just said, “Jesus Christ came into the world…” and stopped right there. Think about who this was who came. The person who came into this world was the eternal God, the Creator of all things, and the One for whom all things were created. (See Colossians 1:15-16) He is the One who came into this world with all of its problems, and sickness, and suffering. And He didn’t even come to modern America. He came to the Near East two thousand years ago—when there was no modern indoor plumbing, or air-conditioning, or aspirin.
It is amazing that God would come into this world to die for sinners.
What if this verse didn’t tell us why Jesus came into the world? A lot of people know that Christmas has something to do with Jesus, but that’s about it. I think a lot of people assume that Jesus wanted to come into this world to tell us how wonderful we are. It’s like He is stopping by with a pan of brownies because he just likes us so much. You see, we are very deluded about how wonderful we are. The reality is that we are all sinners. (Romans 3:23) We are born with hearts that are in open rebellion to God. That is what sin is at its core: rebellion against God. That is what makes it so terrible. It isn’t like we just accidently broke a few technical rules. Sin is not insignificant. You can tell how significant a crime is by the penalty attached to it. Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is eternal death. That is not insignificant.
It is amazing that God would come into this world to die for really bad sinners!
Even the “smallest” sin is a sin against an infinitely holy God. Therefore, in a sense, even the “smallest” sin is infinitely terrible. Paul realized this. He described himself as the worst of all sinners, or as the KJV puts it, the “chief” of all sinners. Paul realized that Jesus didn’t come into this world to save “nice” people. There are none. Sure, we may be nice to one another, but we’re not nice to God. But Jesus came to save even the worst of sinners. As the Reformer Martin Luther said, Christ saves even “hard-boiled” sinners. If you think that you are too big of a sinner for Jesus to save, you’re not. Paul used to hunt down Christians to have them killed. The blood of Christ is valuable enough to save Paul, and it is valuable enough to save you. In the very next verse Paul writes:
But for this very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of all sinners, Christ Jesus might display His immense patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life.