The days before Christmas can be
a tiring season of preparation,
planning, shopping, and wrapping.
But I think as we prepare for the
Christmas celebrations, dinners,
travel, and gift giving, it’s equally
important that we pause and
prepare our souls for Christmas.
During this time of year, it may be
easy to forget that the bigger
purpose behind Bethlehem was
Calvary. But the purpose of the
manger was realized in the
horrors of the cross. The purpose
of his birth was his death.
Or to put it more personally:
Christmas is necessary because I
am a sinner. The incarnation
reminds us of our desperate
condition before a holy God.
Several years ago WORLD
Magazine published a column by
William H. Smith with the
provocative title, “Christmas is
disturbing: Any real understanding
of the Christmas messages will
disturb anyone” (Dec. 26, 1992).
In part, Smith wrote:
“Many people who otherwise
ignore God and the church have
some religious feeling, or feel they
ought to, at this time of the year.
So they make their way to a
church service or Christmas
program. And when they go, they
come away feeling vaguely
warmed or at least better for
having gone, but not disturbed.
Why aren’t people disturbed by
Christmas? One reason is our
tendency to sanitize the birth
narratives. We romanticize the
story of Mary and Joseph rather
than deal with the painful dilemma
they faced when the Lord chose
Mary to be the virgin who would
conceive her child by the power of
the Holy Spirit. We beautify the
birth scene, not coming to terms
with the stench of the stable, the
poverty of the parents, the
hostility of Herod. Don’t miss my
point. There is something truly
comforting and warming about the
Christmas story, but it comes from
understanding the reality, not from
denying it.”
Most of us also have not come to
terms with the baby in the
manger. We sing, “Glory to the
newborn King.” But do we truly
recognize that the baby lying in
the manger is appointed by God to
be the King, to be either the Savior
or Judge of all people? He is a
most threatening person.
Malachi foresaw his coming and
said, “But who can endure the day
of his coming? Who can stand
when he appears? For he is like a
refiner’s fire or a launderer’s
soap.” As long as we can keep
him in the manger, and feel the
sentimental feelings we have for
babies, Jesus doesn’t disturb us.
But once we understand that his
coming means for every one of us
either salvation or condemnation,
he disturbs us deeply.
What should be just as disturbing
is the awful work Christ had to do
to accomplish the salvation of his
people. Yet his very name, Jesus,
testifies to us of that work.
That baby was born so that “he
who had no sin” would become
“sin for us, so that in him we
might become the righteousness
of God.” …When I look into the
manger, I come away shaken as I
realize again that he was born to
pay the unbearable penalty for my
That’s the message of Christmas:
God reconciled the world to
himself through Christ, man’s sin
has alienated him from God, and
man’s reconciliation with God is
possible only through faith in
Christ…Christmas is disturbing.
Don’t get me wrong–Christmas
should be a wonderful celebration.
Properly understood, the message
of Christmas confronts before it
comforts, it disturbs before it
The purpose of Christ’s birth was
to live a sinless life, suffer as our
substitute on the cross, satisfy the
wrath of God, defeat death, and
secure our forgiveness and
Christmas is about God the Father
(the offended party) taking the
initiative to send his only begotten
son to offer his life as the atoning
sacrifice for our sins, so that we
might be forgiven for our many
As Smith so fitly concludes his
“Only those who have been
profoundly disturbed to the point
of deep repentance are able to
receive the tidings of comfort,
peace, and joy that Christmas
Amen and Merry Christmas!