Christmas commemorates the beginning of the most joyous event in human history, when Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, came to earth and became a man (Jn. 1: 14; Phil. 2:5-11). Jesus came to earth in order to sacrifice Himself as a one-time, sufficient sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.
However, as we celebrate the greatest gift ever given, the birth of the Savior, we must always remember that the ghastly specter of Calvary's cross always casts a ghostly shadow over Bethlehem's babe in the manger. Jesus came to die and pay the price for our sins and for all who will accept Him and His sacrifice for their sin and confess Him as Lord and Savior.
As the familiar, but beautiful little poem I heard for the first time many years ago states it:
Who art Thou, precious little
babe, nestled in the hay?
God I am, came to earth this day.
Why didst Thou come, sweet little
babe, nestled in the hay?
To die I came, the price of sin to pay.
Whose sin, tender little babe,
nestled in the hay?
Yours it was, that brought me
Why do we give each other gifts at Christmas? We do so because we are honoring the greatest gift ever given. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever should believe in Him would not perish but have life everlasting" (John 3:16). As the Apostle John informed us, to them that believe on His name, to them He gave the power to become the children of God (John 1:12).
As we celebrate the birth of our Savior, we must always remember that the terrible reality of the crucifixion awaits. One of the most fruitful questions a student can ask when studying the Bible is "why is this passage included in the Gospel?" After all, there had to be a strict, divinely superintended editing process with every event being there for a reason.
Why is the story of Jesus' temptation in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt.. 26:36-46; Luke 22:39-53) included in the Gospels? The only reason we know about the events in the Garden is because Jesus told the disciples what happened. None of the disciples were witnesses. They had fallen asleep. I believe the answer to the question is that the Garden of Gethsemane episode illustrates if there had been any other way to deliver humanity from the penalty of their sin other than for God to pay the price Himself on the cross through His Son Jesus Christ, God (the perfect Father), would have answered His perfect Son's request to "let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt" (Matt. 26:39).
So, the agony of Calvary's cross is inextricably interwoven with the angelic proclamation: "Behold, I bring good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is the Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11).
Wondrously, gloriously the divine thread woven through this story that begins with the manger does not end with Calvary, but with the empty tomb.
As one of my very favorite hymns ("Christ Arose") declares in its triumphant chorus:
Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o'er His foes
He arose a victor
from the dark domain,
and He lives forever with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!
We rejoice at Christmas because after He came to be with us He rose again, guaranteeing for us eternal life.