Summary: Christ’s birth is an example of sacrifice that is lived out in the lives of those who follow Him.
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
“By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world.”
Whenever we leave the boundaries of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, it is difficult to imagine that we will find a passage that points us to Christmas. However, the Apostle John certainly speaks of God’s gift of life in this passage of the Word. “God … loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins… The Father has sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world.” In the gaiety and warm glow of the Christmas Season, we are prone to overlook the reason for the Master’s incarnation—Jesus came to present His life as a sacrifice because of our helpless condition. Very God became a human being so that He might present His life as atonement for mankind’s sinful condition.
Nevertheless, Jesus did come, and the reason for His coming was our helpless condition. The Word of God speaks of this when the Apostle wrote, “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly… God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” [*Romans 5:6, 8*]. The Son of God gave His life to secure our life. Facing the cross, Jesus boldly addressed this issue when He said, “Now is My soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify Your Name” [*John** 12:27, 28a*]. The Master knew that He had been born to give His life as a sacrifice because of our inability to provide atonement for sin.
Let me remind you of a dark truth. You and I are sinners. We were born under the curse of sin brought on by the sin of our first parents. The Word of God tells us that “the wages of sin is death” [*Romans** 6:23a*]. Even were we to live a perfect life—sinless life, we are yet born sinners and therefore under sentence of death. The evidence that this is so is witnessed in the death of infants who have committed no overt sin. However, the Son of God was born to provide salvation to all who are willing to receive that divine gift. The gift is free to any who are willing to receive it, though it cost Christ the Lord His life as a sacrifice for sinners.
Those, whose lives have been transformed through being born from above, have a new attitude toward others who share this Faith and toward others outside the Faith. Having experienced Christ’s sacrifice, they are prepared to live sacrificially. Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another” [*John 15:12-17*].
We are not accustomed to thinking of Jesus’ command that His disciples must love one another as a text pointing to Christmas. However, Christians are taught to exhibit a sacrificial attitude toward others—even toward those who are not their friends. I want to share with you a story that did not make many headlines, though it did appear on one American newscast.
Murderers who rampage in the name of their religion have become commonplace in news headlines. While they imagine they are serving their god through violence, Muslim homicide bombers are malignant examples of hate-filled people who are deceived by the devil. One recent story from Pakistan provides a story of such a murderer with a Christian twist.
To understand the story I’m about to tell, you need to understand the conditions for Christians in that country. Pakistan is an Islamic republic, and the population is subject to a form of shari’a law. Less than two percent of Pakistan’s population are Christians; ninety-five percent of the population are Muslims. Christians are openly discriminated against—most relegated to the most menial jobs in society—garbage collectors, sewage workers and servants. Christians are prohibited by law from holding prominent positions in government; only a Muslim can be President or Prime Minister.