In the Christmas season, we often hear the story of Jesus’ birth. We gloss over it like a children’s story with no relevance to us today. But have you stopped to think about why the church considers Jesus’ birth to be important?
The importance of Jesus’ birth begins with two concepts. The first concept is that Jesus is God. The Gospels record that Jesus claimed the power to forgive sin. He proved this by healing people. Since God alone forgives sin, Jesus then must be God. If He is God, we conclude that Jesus existed from eternity because God exists from eternity. Yet, if Jesus is God and a human, then there must be something special about his birth. God taking on humanity is not a minor event in history. There must be something significant about it.
The second concept may seem odd. But it’s that humans are evil. At some point in life, everyone wrestles with the problem of evil. Why is there so much evil? We have chalked it up to natural selection or the carelessness of a distant God. We have looked everywhere for the cause of evil, except in ourselves. But as Apostle Paul realized, “There is no one that does good. No, not one.” This does not mean everyone is a Hitler. But we all have evil at the fundamental root of our being.
But what is evil? Let’s start by looking at what Jesus defined as good. He summarized it this way: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart. . .. and love your neighbor as yourself.” Evil, then, is the antithesis. It is not to love God and not to love people. And by this definition, we are guilty of pervasive evil.
For example, everyone lies. This is basic human nature. We know lying is not loving because when people lie to us, we feel wronged. You might say, “Sometimes lying benefits another person. Therefore, it is love.” I’ll grant this. But how many times have you lied when you know it wouldn’t benefit the other person? The point is we all lie to benefit ourselves and we disregard other people. So, by Jesus’ definition, we are all evil because we do not love our neighbor.
Yet, it is worse than what we might think. It is not that we just have this evil inside of us, and we are trying to suppress it. Evil has risen and enslaved us. We go day after day not loving our neighbor. And we cannot break this habit from us. How many of us cannot stop lying, committing adultery, stealing, hating, and lusting? We know the hurt we cause, but does this stop us?
There are two results from our evil. First, because we do not love, we cause suffering and death. We have all made another human suffer by word or deed. But the results of evil are much more. How many people have carelessly mutilated others? How many have killed others? How many nations have committed genocide against their people? All this happens because we do not love our neighbor.
Second, because we do not love, we receive the punishment of death. If Jesus is God and we break His rule to love, we deserve whatever punishment He declares. To the first man Adam, God declared that if he disobeyed, he would die. He disobeyed and brought death on everyone. Ultimately this death is, as Jesus said, an “eternal punishment.” The Apostle John describes this punishment as a “fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
Yet there is hope. Seeing our imminent death, God pitied us and sent His unique Son. This Son—Jesus—is God. And He became a real human. He partook of “flesh and blood,” “was born of a woman,” and was “touched with our hands.” He was no apparition. He was like us in every way. But why would God become human? He became human so that He could die like us.
Here is where Jesus’ birth becomes significant for you. Jesus came to solve the problem of evil. First, He experienced the problem of evil for Himself. His country was controlled by an oppressive regime and a snobbish elite. He was so poor that He never owned His own house. His family didn’t understand Him. He constantly gave Himself. And in return, He was abandoned, mocked, beaten, whipped, and tortured to death. He went through all the levels of Hell that loveless humans could put Him through. He was no abstract deity who does not feel the pain we inflict on each other. He felt it—all of it.
Second, He broke the ultimate manifestation of the problem of evil: death. To end this problem of evil, Jesus Himself died. But because He was God, He did not stay dead. He came back to life as a human. And since death had no more claim over Him, He came back as an immortal human. And now He he is “a life-giving spirit” able to impart life to all who believe. And so, all who believe in Him receive this life and will also become champions over death.
Finally, He breaks the evil that is in you. We are enslaved to evil. But His power can help His followers overcome evil. They can put to death “fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed.” They are not subject to “anger, wrath, malice, slander, [and] abusive language.” It is true, they can slip into these things. But they have His power to get victory over evil rather than be subject to it.
The coming of Christ in this season was not just to give us a nice story. He came to fulfill one of our greatest longings: freedom from evil. He offers you this freedom today. To receive this freedom, He asks you to believe that He is who He said He is. And He asks you to believe that He’ll do what He said He’ll do.