THE MESSAGE OF CHRISTMAS
by Bob Wheeler
“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” I Tim. 1:15; NKJV
In these twenty five words the apostle Paul summarizes the message of Christmas, and indeed of the Christian gospel itself. Jesus is the Messiah (“Christ” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew “Messiah” – both words mean “the anointed one”). He came into “the world,” this sin-cursed world of fallen human beings. He had previously existed in heaven, and then came into the world by means of a virgin birth and assumed the form of a human being. And why did He do this? “To save sinners.” And herein is the rub.
We would like to think of ourselves as basically good people and that God likes us just the way we are. But when God looks at us He does not see basically good people. What He sees are “sinners.” We routinely ignore Him, and we often do that which we know to be wrong. And why? Because our actions are driven by various forms of selfishness: pride, greed or lust. And as a result we are, by nature estranged and alienated from God.
But “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” So great was the love and compassion that He had for us that He came into the world and died on the cross to save us – to rescue us from our sin and depravity, and from the punishment we justly deserve. Christ shows His love for us, not by pretending that we are not sinners, but by paying the penalty for the sins we have committed.
And is Paul being self-righteous, bigoted and judgmental by calling people “sinners”? No, not all. For he says that Christ came into the world to save sinners, “of whom I am chief.” He sees himself as a sinner, just like everyone else. We are all sinners; we all need salvation. And Christ came into the world to achieve precisely that.
In calling sin “sin” we are not setting ourselves above others. We are simply acknowledging the common fault of mankind. And the way to find peace with God is not by pretending that we are righteous, but by frankly admitting that we are sinners and asking God for forgiveness. That is not bigotry; that is humanitarianism at its deepest level.
And that is the true meaning of Christmas!