The following article was originally published by the Ohio Association of Free Will Baptist in the Ambassador. You can access the original article by clicking the title below.
Have we forgotten the importance of Christmas? The world’s perspective on Christmas without a doubt is about everything but Jesus Christ. The giving of gifts at Christmas has become so commercialized by our culture. We now live in a moment of time in which Black Friday begins at 6:00 PM on Thanksgiving Day (Gray Thursday in business terms) and extends through Cyber-Monday.
The images are vivid of people lined up hours before the doors open. People forcing their way through the door when they are barely open. There are the images of people being trampled when the doors do open. People standing in long lines wrapped through the store for hours. Fights break out over items that are in limited stock. Perhaps the most vivid picture that stands out in my mind is a picture of a boy and his mother. The caption of the picture is the boy saying to his mother, “You mean to tell me that people trample others for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have?” There is not a Christmas shopping season that passes without these images being plastered all over the media. Every year, even as I do my own Christmas shopping, I ask myself, “Have I forgotten the true gift of Christmas?”
A Gift of Grace
Consider for a moment that the gift of Christmas is a gift of grace. The birth of Jesus Christ is not just an emotional tear-jerker story. It is the act of God sending His only Son, Jesus Christ into this world to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. (John 3:16; Titus 2:11,14) We stand helpless and hopeless before Holy God. This gift of grace is Holy God acting on our behalf to provide help and hope to us. This is what we call salvation. This is not something we earn. Our salvation is a free gift of grace provided to us by Holy God.
A Gift of Incarnation
The incarnation means that God became flesh. (John 1:1, 14) Christianity is unique because no other religion can claim a Savior who is God in the flesh. The incarnation means that the very God who we sinned against, was willing to come so that He may die in our place to pay our debt of sin. Paul said to Titus that “the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” (Titus 2:11) Jesus Christ is the way in which God brought the gift of salvation to all men. Take note, “to all men” does not mean that every person will receive salvation. If every person received salvation that would be universalism. We believe in a very narrow Gospel. There is only one way of salvation. It is the incarnated God in the Flesh, Jesus Christ. (Matthew 7:13-14; John 14:6; Titus 2:14) Every human being is faced with the choice of whether or not to receive the gift that has been brought to us.
A Gift of Forgiveness
God had every right to condemn us to eternal hell because of our sin. Instead, He chose to redeem us and extend forgiveness. He redeemed us for himself (Titus 2:14). Redemption includes the idea of pardon. Pardon is to release someone from the punishment for a crime they are guilty of. All of us are born guilty, but God has chosen to pardon those who place their faith in Jesus Christ for His own glory (Psalm 25:11). Redemption also includes the idea of forgiveness. Forgiveness is not requiring the payment for a debt. In redemption, God paid our sin debt and no longer requires us to make payment for our debt (Matthew 18:21-35; 2 Corinthians 5:21). So, the gift of Christmas is forgiveness!
A Gift of Triumph
Paul told Titus that we are given the power to experience triumph over sin in this life because of salvation. While we will never be perfect in this life, we can have triumph over the power of sin in our lives (Titus 2:12). He continues this thought into the future. We are now looking for the “glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13) This speaks of the day in which we will receive our new bodies to dwell with Him for all of eternity free from both the power and presence of sin in our lives (I Corinthians 15:50-57)!
Responding to the GIFT
What do we do with this gift of God? Perhaps the words of Paul to Titus will be of help, “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.” (Titus 2:12). God has provided us with all of the resources we need to live in holiness. When we live in holiness we are witnesses to the life-changing gift of Christmas.
Holy living begins with soberness. That is, we are to live with a sound mind. When we think correctly with a sound mind, we will live righteously. Righteousness is to conform to a certain set of expectations in a relationship. Holiness is the expectation in relation to God. “Godly” means to live in piety. In other words, to live devoted to God.
Perhaps you find yourself being consumed with all of the commercialism of Christmas and materialism of life. If this is true, you must repent. Materialism is not a witness to the true gift of Christmas. Rather, it is a self-centered approach to life. Yet, holiness is what we are called to.