While Christmas is certainly not sentimental, it is profoundly joyous. Isn’t this the best news of all, that He came for you? That He gave His life for you? That He knew what He was getting into when He entered into your estate of sin and misery?
“All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6
When I lived in the Southeast, I dreamed of having a “white Christmas.” Having lived in the Midwest now for 5 years, I dream of having a “warm Christmas.” Both of these weather related yearnings have stirred up quite a bit of Christmas sentimentality over the years. Yet, neither snow nor sun—sweater vests—or sugar cookies capture Christmas. Christmas is captured in these words: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1Timothy 1:15).
Jesus Christ came into the world. And while the Son never changes, the world that He created changed dramatically. The world in which He entered was not a place full of holiday cheer, civility and well-wishing. He entered into a world mired in sin and misery. The Westminster Confession hit the nail on the head when the authors used that expression.
Jesus entered into a world of sin and misery. Hostility not civility—perversion not holiness—arrogance not humility—depravity not innocence—this was the world into which Jesus voluntarily came. He knew what He was getting into. He was not bribed or coerced by the Father. His arm was not twisted. You might say it like this: He came with His head on a swivel and His eyes wide open. He knew the state of affairs. He knew the lay of the land. He left a good situation for a dire one. They say in college football that there are certain jobs which are career killers, or coaching graveyards. Certainly, when Jesus left heaven for earth, this was much less than a lateral move. He would leave comfort for death.
So when it comes to the reality of our sin, no amount of sentimentality can ease, suppress or erase it. We can slap on a sweater vest and stuff a sugar plum in our mouth, but the Christmas-time narcotic of sentimentality cannot address our self-imposed estate of sin and misery. Our sin is odious and offensive to God and therefore it can only be dealt with by a sacrifice.
Where can you find a capable, pleasing sacrifice? Matthew 1:21 states, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” He came into the world to save sinners. While Christmas is certainly not sentimental, it is profoundly joyous. Isn’t this the best news of all, that He came for you? That He gave His life for you? That He knew what He was getting into when He entered into your estate of sin and misery? How the joy of Christmas should flood the soul of the Christian, for the Father has laid upon the Son the iniquity of us all.
So this Christmas season, you can certainly long for a white or a warm Christmas. You can wear an ugly sweater. You can eat a fruitcake. You can and should delight in hopeful music, seasonal drink and family traditions. Yet as we enjoy some of the festivities that surround Christmas time, we need to remind ourselves that Christmas is ultimately about the Lamb who was slaughtered for our sin. Christmas is sacrificial, not sentimental.
Robby Grames is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is pastor of Colfax Center PCA in Holland, Iowa.