The Baby in the Manger

Why Jesus Came to Save

I’ve been preparing to write for Christmas since the middle of October. I still feel unprepared to dig into it all, but I’ll give it a shot.The lights, the gifts, the food, the music and movies and family; these are all aspects that we love, but it’s not everything about Christmas.

You probably already know that I’m going to dig into the Christmas story about a baby born in Bethlehem some two thousand years ago. You would be very correct! However, I don’t want to recap the entire Christmas story, but you can read it in Luke chapters one and two, and also in Matthew chapters one and two.

I really want to focus on who, exactly, that little baby was and what was leading up to why He was born here, on earth, some two thousand years ago. What can we do thinking about all this in our lives today?

The nativity is a popular Christmas decoration today, showing the first Christmas celebration on Earth. Photo courtesy of Katie Leier.

Jesus’s earthly birth was first predicted way back in Genesis 3. After Adam and Eve sinned and went their own way, God promised to send a Savior, His own Son, to redeem where Adam went wrong.

In discussing the serpent (Satan in disguise) who had tempted Eve, who in turn tempted Adam, and drew them into sin, God promised that this would not be the end of evil. It was only the beginning, but Satan, in the end, would not win. 

“And I will put enmity

    between you (Satan) and the woman,

    and between your offspring and hers;

He (Jesus) will crush your head,

    and you will strike his heel.”

Genesis 3:15b

At first glance this doesn’t make much sense, but that just means you have to read into it a bit. God promised that His Son, from Adam and Eve’s lineage, would be killed, which is the heel-striking part. When Jesus was crucified, His wrists and feet were nailed to the cross (per the heel striking), but Jesus would crush Satan once and for all after He came back to life.

In order for that to happen, Jesus would have to be born in human flesh, the offspring of Adam and Eve. Right off the bat, just hours after the first sin a human ever committed, God was already promising redemption, even before any other evil took place, before the earth was full of imperfect messed-up people, before everyone else was even born.

Even if Adam had been the only one to ever sin, God would still send His Son, His Only Son, to die for his redemption. If we understand what happened before Jesus came and the backstory of why He had to come, we can appreciate the whole reason all that much more.

The rest of the Old Testament continues to verify this promise. For four thousand years, there was this promise, the promise of redemption, that Satan would be conquered and there would be no need for God’s children to go to the temple to atone for their sins, as was required of the people at the time. 

Not that everyone understood that He was going to die; all they knew was that He would save them, although they were a bit confused as to what they would be saved from.Israel, God’s chosen nation, underwent years of captivity due to their stubborn and persistent worshiping of other gods aside from the God of Adam. Israel was looking for a king to free them from Roman occupation, not someone to free them from the law and their sins.

That was why Jesus came as a human. To bear our sins and our sorrows and take them as His own, as a human, with all the human feelings, temptations, heartbreaks, hard work, and disappointments. He came to feel everything we feel and experience, with only one exception: 

Jesus never sinned. He never gave into temptation and because of this, He conquered sin.

“Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God.”

1 Corinthians 5:27

Adam was the first man on earth and God made him without sin. However, Adam was not God and thus succumbed to temptation. Jesus came as our second Adam, fully God and yet fully man, and because He didn’t sin, He was able to wash away all our sins, all our imperfections, every wrong thought, word, feeling, action, everything was washed away.

It doesn’t make sense to a human mind, but that’s OK. Who are we to understand the mind of the Most High God? We are just people living an imperfect existence in a crazy world that only has one light: Jesus.

Jesus is our Redeemer and understanding who He really is and how He lived His life on earth makes the Christmas story come alive a bit more. The significance is something to consider as we head about our busy holiday season. At least it gives us food for thought.

Last week, I had an article on Christmas songs, and I mentioned a song by the group Downhere titled “How Many Kings”. It’s my favorite non-traditional Christmas song for one reason: it makes you realize how miraculous the Christmas story really is.

God Almighty becoming a baby, the Son of an impoverished teenager and her carpenter husband? Living in a small town that was despised by most of the country? A baby that had to be changed and fed, totally dependent on his earthly parents. Growing up, he would have to learn to walk and talk, how to read and write, just like any other little boy.

God Almighty who teaches babies to walk and talk and the Author of all wisdom had to learn these things Himself. I wonder if His mother, Mary, had these same thoughts and feelings when He was born. The Bible doesn’t say anything in that regard, but you have to wonder, did she have a moment, staring at her baby and thinking Is this the Son of God? A baby who needs His mother like any other baby? I get to raise God’s Son?

It’s surreal to think about. Just listen to the lyrics of the song “Mary, Did You Know?” as it takes a look at what Mary could have been thinking that night.

Jesus came to earth to take back everything Satan stole from Adam at the Garden of Eden. He was born with the purpose to die, to save all humanity if we accept this sacrifice He made for us. He was completely God and completely human, with all our emotions and struggles and hard work. He was tempted, but never sinned (Matthew 4:1-11). He had to be a human, learning what every other child has to learn as they grow up.

These are the realities of the beginning of Jesus’ life on earth. That first night, when angels announced His birth (Luke 2:8-18), they were announcing that the salvation story was reaching its peak. This was the final countdown to His death and rising, when Satan would no longer hold the keys to death.

We still live in a broken world, but a world of grace, where we will be until Jesus returns. There’s more to the after-story that is explained in the book of Revelation, but for this month, we focus on one silent night, when the world forever changed. 

We can wonder at the miracle Baby Jesus was, what had to happen leading up to His birth, and what His earthly parents might have been thinking when they saw His face for the first time. Like the shepherds and wise men who visited Him, we can still seek Him out today.

Listening to Christmas songs a little bit more closely, catching the words that maybe we didn’t hear before on the artists’ and composers’ own thoughts on the Christmas story is a great start to giving the holiday a bit of a closer look. Reading the Christmas story, knowing a bit more of the background, makes everything come together a little clearer and adds to the significance. 

I hope you all have a wonderful break and enjoy the holiday season, and also take time to reflect on the Christmas story. 

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