The Incarnation is at the very center of the Christian faith. In fact, if a person denies the Incarnation, he has denied Christianity itself. Listen to the words of John: “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 John 7).
That’s quite strong. It would be hard to given more importance to the Incarnation than John does here.
Why is the Incarnation such a big deal? Why does it matter that God the Son took a human nature?
The Bible actually has a couple dozen or so passages that specifically say things like “Jesus Christ came to” do this or that. That is say, we don’t have to speculate about why Jesus came. We can actually hear God’s own Word on the matter.
The vast majority of these references tell us that Jesus came to save us from sin. For instance, Jesus says, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). He came to give his life as a ransom (Mark 10:45), which means we needed to be ransomed.
He came “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
The rest of the New Testament writers taught this as well. Peter preached that God sent Jesus “to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness” (Acts 3:26). Paul tells us that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). The writer of Hebrews says that “he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26).
And John says that God the Father “loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). A “propitiation” is a sacrifice that satisfies God’s just wrath.
All of these verses mean this: Jesus’s coming will mean nothing to us if we don’t view ourselves as sinners who need saving. To say that we are sinners demands that God has ultimate authority in the world. His standards of righteous apply to us, and we acknowledge that we have fallen short of them.
To say that we need to be saved means that our sin has a just penalty. We deserve punishment from God. We’ve earned it. If we refuse to say these things, we are denying that Jesus came to save us from our sin. We are denying that we need to be saved at all. There was no need for Jesus to come.
There are many for whom the celebration of birth of Christ is an exercise of sentimentality. And there is nothing amiss about the celebration of the season, the enjoyment of friends and family, and the exchange of gifts.
For those of us, however, who confess that Jesus is the Savior, our rejoicing at Christmas is that the salvation we need has come in the person of Jesus Christ!