Summary: Christmas is all about God coming to rescue us in the person of Jesus Christ.
As we find ourselves approaching the Christmas season, we find that many in our society want to celebrate Christmas without embracing Christ. Therefore, they seek to define the meaning of Christmas in terms other that biblical terms. For example, Christmas is commonly defined today as "a time of brotherly love," or "a time of giving," or "a time spent with family and friends." Indeed, the Christmas holiday involves many of these things. But we mustn’t make the mistake of confusing form for substance. The things we do and the sentiments we express in our celebration of Christmas do not define what Christmas is.
The meaning of Christmas is to be found in the significance of the event that is at the heart of Christmas - the coming of Christ to this earth in order to be the Savior of the world. Therefore, if we are to discover the true meaning of Christmas, we must look to the Word of God. What does the Bible tells us about the meaning of Christmas? The Bible tells us that Christmas means that God has rescued us.
1. Our Gloomy Situation - v. 6
Paul tells us that Christ came "at just the right time." What does this mean? Well, there are two meanings here:
A. It means that the world was prepared spiritually, economically, linguistically, politically, philosophically and geographically for the coming of Jesus and the fulfillment of His mission. God waited for the perfect time in history for His purposes in Christ to be fulfilled.
B. It means Jesus died at the right time for us; He died when we were sinners needing a Savior! He rescued us "just in the nick of time."
Why were we in need of being rescued? Paul identifies two reasons:
1) We were hopeless - "ungodly"
One of my favorite movies is "The Babe" staring John Goodman as Babe Ruth. The film opens with a scene where Babe Ruth’s father takes him to Saint Mary’s Industrial School for Boys in Baltimore. He is accepted and labeled as "incorrigible," which the brothers at the school define as "bad beyond reform."
That’s how we were, and that’s why we need someone beyond ourselves to come and rescue us. Elsewhere, Paul expressed this fact this way:
"As it is written, None is righteous, just and truthful and upright and conscientious, no, not one. No one understands [no one intelligently discerns or comprehends]; no one seeks out God. All have turned aside; together they have gone wrong and have become unprofitable and worthless; no one does right, not even one!" - Romans 3:10-12 (Amplified)
2) We were helpless - "powerless"
A) We were powerless to see our situation improve.
We were alienated from God by virtue of our sinfulness and could do nothing to change our situation. Even when we did try to do things that would hopefully put us right with God, we constantly came up short. The very best things about our lives were still tainted by our sinfulness.
"We are all infected and impure with sin. When we proudly display our righteous deeds, we find they are but filthy rags." - Isaiah 64:6 (NLT)
B) We were powerless to delay the inevitable.
"For the wages of sin is death." - Romans 6:23 (NIV)
Paul describes the inevitable end of all who are not right with God:
"Such people will pay the penalty and suffer the punishment of everlasting ruin (destruction and perdition) and eternal exclusion and banishment from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power." - 2 Thessalonians 1:9 (Amplified)
Dr. Ian Paisley, the fiery Irish cleric and politician was reputed to have been preaching one Sunday on the End Times - and in particular on the Day of Judgment. As he reached the climax of his address he said that on the Day of Judgment "there would be wailing and gnashing of teeth." At which point an old woman put up her hand and said "Dr. Paisley, I have no teeth." Paisley replied "Madam, teeth will be provided"
This was our gloomy situation. No matter how we might try to avoid it, no matter how we might try to correct it, the fact remained that it was inevitable, we were guilty and condemned to be punished for our sin, and there was nothing we could do to change our situation!
So God came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ to change our situation for us. He did this through the sacrifice He made on our behalf.
2. Christ’s Generous Sacrifice - vs. 7-8
"For the Son of Man came to look for and to save from the punishment of sin those who are lost."
- Luke 19:10 (NLV)
How did He accomplish this and provide for our salvation? Through sacrificially offering Himself as a substitute for us. He was punished in our place.