It’s Christmas time again. Christmas is a holiday celebrated by both religious and nonreligious people. The Christmas season is supposed to be a time of joy, love, and generosity, all of which are undoubtedly good things. Still, as we Christians like to say: Jesus is the reason for the season. He’s what it’s all about. Sending Jesus to earth was God’s greatest display of love, generosity, and mercy, and our joy during this season should come from our reflection over what Jesus’ birth means for us. He wasn’t just a very special person. He was and is our savior.
You’ll probably hear that sentiment a lot. “Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of our savior.” What does that really mean though? We say it. Many of us believe it, but do we really comprehend what it means?
We live in a time where the movie theaters are ruled by superhero movies – stories about super powered individuals and teams that save people and even worlds in the most dramatic and spectacular ways. Even the less super heroes that we encounter in real life like firefighters, paramedics, or just average citizens that leap into danger to save others always seem to play their savior roles in dramatic fashion.
That’s just what our imaginations have been trained to expect, so when some people think about Jesus’ story, they may come away less than impressed. Sure, he was superpowered. He could read minds, control the weather, heal the sick, raise the dead, and tell the future. He had an array of powers that would make many Marvel and DC heroes jealous. He helped those in need, spread the word about the importance of love, stood firm on his beliefs, and died for the benefit of others. That should probably put him squarely in the category of a hero by anyone’s standards.
He saved people for sure. Lazarus, for example, was dead and Jesus raised him up. The Bible tells us about many people for which he was a savior, but what does it mean when we say he is our savior?
Jesus, at least in his physical form, has been gone from this world for nearly two millennia, so nonbelievers who are open to, at least, acknowledging his existence still struggle to see how he is saving any of us. To them, Jesus lived, and he died. His death didn’t immediately change life for his people. The Jews were still under the thumb of Rome when he died. His death also didn’t make life any easier for his followers. In fact, for many, their lives got harder. So who exactly did his death save, and what did it save them from?
As Christians, this should be an easy answer for us. The Bible tells us:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! – Romans 5:6-10
Jesus died to save us all from our own sin and from God’s Wrath that was born in response to our sinfulness. If that’s too vague, the Bible makes it clearer.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23
Jesus’ death and resurrection saved us from death. That’s what the Bible tells us, but again that concept might not ring true to nonbelievers. People, even Christians, die every day. How can that be if Jesus saved us? Part of being a believer means seeing past this physical world and looking to the spiritual one beyond. That’s the part of Christmas that doesn’t get talked about enough. Sure, it’s a time of giving and fellowshipping and spreading cheer. We can and should indulge in all of that, especially in Jesus’ name. However, we Christians have to make sure the Gospel doesn’t get lost in all the worldly activity.
One day the Christmas trees, the presents, and everything else in this world will be gone. Jesus left the world, but one day he’s coming back to destroy and rebuild. On that day, those who were believed to be dead will come back to be with the savior.
For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. – 1 Thessalonians 4:14-16
Contrary to what the movies show us, salvation doesn’t always come accompanied by explosions and fighting and spectacular displays of superhuman abilities. It also isn’t always instantaneous or easy to understand. Still, whenever you’ve been saved you should know it. Those of us who believe in Jesus understand full well what he’s done for us. We know where we were headed before we accepted Jesus and God’s gift of salvation. The good thing is we can play a part in the salvation of others. All we have to do is share our story. What better time than this season to let others know that he can do the same for them? It’s only fitting that everyone learns that we all have already received the greatest Christmas gift of them all. Merry Christmas.
Image courtesy of Valley Christian School