Pastor Bob O'Bannon
The essence of Christmas is the mysterious, glorious and profound claim that God, the creator of the heavens and the earth, became a man in the person of Jesus Christ. To this astounding truth one might be compelled to ask: did it have to be this way? Was there any other way for God to redeem us? The second chapter of Hebrews gives us three reasons why God had to become a man:
God became man to help you fight against sin
This is stated clearly in Heb. 2:18 – “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” God became man so He could enter into your personal experience and fully identify with whatever temptation you face in this life.
Think of it: God entered the world in the most challenging of situations – born into poverty, conceived by a single mother, eventually to come under the death threat of an oppressive dictator. God did it this way so He could share fully in the most overwhelming of your circumstances, and to come to your aid when you are tempted to give up hope, to turn angry and cynical, or to doubt God’s goodness.
God became man to defeat your greatest enemy
Ever since the fall of Adam, men, women and children have been enslaved by death. It all began when Adam rejected God’s command and ate the fruit in the Garden; since then, every person has come into this world under the same deadly curse. “The wages of sin is death,” the Bible says. It has been reported that 5,417 people die every hour. Many of our phobias, whether it be fear of heights or fear of water or fear of snakes, are just different manifestations of the fear of death.
But Heb. 2:14 says, “Since the children have flesh and blood, (Jesus) too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”
It was the man Adam who disobeyed God and brought the curse upon all humankind, so we need another man, a second Adam, to reverse the curse on behalf of humankind. That “second Adam” is Jesus. Paul writes in Rom. 5:17, “If, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” Because God became a man, your greatest enemy, death itself, has been defeated. This is why every Christmas we sing, “Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die.”
God became man to deliver you from His wrath
You can’t understand Christmas unless you see the shadow of the Cross looming over the birth of the Christ child. God took a human body in the person of Jesus so he could offer that body in death, and through that death, He could satisfy God’s anger against sin. This is what it says in Heb. 2:17 – “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
The word “propitiation” simply means to turn away wrath, or to appease one’s anger. It refers to the sacrifice at Calvary that absorbed God’s wrath and has turned that wrath into everlasting favor. This is what Jesus was born to accomplish for sinners.
One might say, “I thought God was a God of love!” He is. But He is also a God of wrath. Because God loves righteousness, that means He must hate sin. At the Cross, both God’s love and his wrath come together, so that grace can be offered to sinners while at the same time, God’s justice is fully dealt with.
Yes, God did have to become a man for our redemption to be complete. If He hadn’t, you would not have a God who could understand your struggles; you would have no definite hope that death could be overcome; and you would not have assurance that God’s anger against your sin could be averted. Christmas tells us that God did become man, and therefore there is much to celebrate on this wonderful holiday.