Joy to the World: Christmas Worship (Part 2)

Christmas invites us to worship God for our redemption. Now, you might say that’s something that Christians sing about all the time, and we even have a whole holiday dedicated to just this truth. And that’s true – we do clearly celebrate our redemption at Easter. But at Easter we are uniquely focused on the humiliation of Christ on the cross. At Christmas there is a different humiliation we emphasize. At Easter we talk about the brutal and undeserved suffering of our Lord as He endures the cross – but take it back a step further and at Christmas we reflect on the a God who took on flesh left His eternal and perfect home to come, be born as a baby, live through this earthly life, and all with the goal of dying for sinners. Christmas emphasizes the redemption in a different way and adds to our wonder as it adds to the picture of Christ’s work for us.

The most memorable passage communicating this aspect of Christ’s humiliation is Philippians 2. Here Paul is urging the church to express humility and in that regard gives us a commendable and exceptional example in the person of Jesus Christ. We read:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (v. 5-8)

Jesus did not hold tightly to His rights as God, but took on flesh, humbled himself as a servant, and came to die. This is such an important aspect of Christ’s coming that it deserves our attention, even at Christmas.

Jesus gets a lot of air time around the Holidays. Even the secular world around us seems to be more comfortable with Jesus this time of year. The radio plays all the traditional Christmas carols, with their litany of references to the Messiah and to the divine. Secular bands and artists, who have otherwise demonstrated no interest in Christianity, often release holiday albums with their own versions of these old hymns. Television networks still air A Charlie Brown Christmas with its lengthy reading of the Gospel of Luke. But what most people will tolerate at Christmas is really nothing more than some sentimental idea of the baby Jesus in the manger. They still refuse to embrace the notion behind these old hymns, and the Nativity itself. Jesus was born to die. He came as Messiah and redeemer. Christmas is as much about the atonement as Easter is, though that atonement is cast in a unique light.

At Christmas Christ is still savior! We worship not a baby in a manger, but a redeemer who humbled himself, took on flesh, was born in a manger, suffered in this world, and died on the cross for sinners who could not save themselves. Zechariah proclaims this truth when he anticipates the coming birth of the Messiah. In Luke chapter 1 he declares:

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us (v. 68-71)

Christmas is about redemption. The “magic” of this holiday season points to the amazing grace of God in sending His Son to save us.

We sing about this truth at Christmas. “O Come, O Come Immanuel and ransom captive Israel.” Verse four in that classic Christmas hymn says:

O come, O Branch of Jesse’s stem,
unto your own and rescue them!
From depths of hell your people save,
and give them victory o’er the grave.

Even at Christmas we are thinking of all that Jesus comes to accomplish. But we are invited to look at these truths from a unique perspective. Consider these words, from another classic hymn:

God rest ye merry gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember Christ our Savior
Was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan’s pow’r
When we were gone astray
Oh tidings of comfort and joy

Or how about this one:

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee

At Christmas we sing of our redemption because it is for this reason that Jesus came. The baby born in the manger is not just some sweet story – it is an epic truth of the humiliation of Christ that leads all the way from womb to tomb and climaxes in His resurrection for our salvation. Christ is savior, even at Christmas and we worship Him for it.

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