BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
“And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21 NLT).
The Christmas story is straightforward, and nobody should misunderstand its importance. People should not allow the festivities associated with the celebration to blind them to or distract them from the purpose of Christmas.
Christmas is more than an annual holiday; it is a rescue mission that God Himself performed. It is the season commemorating the birth of Jesus the Messiah (Jesus Christ). Although the word Christmas is not in the Bible, what it is all about is written there.
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18 NKJV). Why was Jesus born? An understanding of this is crucial to celebrating Christmas properly.
In Matthew 1, the angel told Joseph in a dream the reason for the birth of Jesus. “And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (verses 21 NLT). This is the actual reason for the birth of Jesus and should be the basis for the Christmas celebration.
Jesus Christ was born to rescue man from the condemnation that resulted from the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:18-19 NKJV). All human beings are born sinners.
God with us
Over 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, the prophet Isaiah had prophesied, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14 NKJV). He must have been ridiculed because his prophecy didn’t make sense. It wasn’t fulfilled before he died.
However, his prophecy was fulfilled in Mary, who became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:30-33 NKJV).
Mary replied, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” (Verse 34). He told her the Holy Spirit would come upon her, and the power of the Highest would overshadow her. Therefore, the Holy One to be born would be called the Son of God (verse 35). Although it sounded unbelievable, Mary replied, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (verse 38 NKJV).
Matthew 1:22-23 refers to the prophet Isaiah’s prophecy, saying, “So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us’” (NKJV). Just as the angel had said, Mary became pregnant by the Holy Spirit and gave birth to Jesus the Messiah, God in the flesh. God became man and He was called Emmanuel. He came to save human beings from their sins.
Jesus Christ is Emmanuel – God with us. God, through Jesus Christ, came to the earth on a rescue mission to save man from sin and its consequences, the ultimate being hell. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. ‘He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16-18 NKJV). This is the rescue mission.
Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew word, Yehowshuwa or Joshua (Jehovah/Yahweh is salvation or the Lord saves). Christ, the official name of Jesus, is from the Greek word, Christos, which means “anointed”. Jesus Christ, therefore, means “The anointed Saviour” or “the Messiah”. Messiah comes from the Hebrew word, Mashiach, which means “the anointed”. Jesus Christ is different from four other people in the Bible, or five in the King James Version of the Bible, bearing Jesus. Only Jesus Christ saves from sin and hell.
Religion or self-righteousness cannot save anyone. “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6a NKJV). As we have seen in Matthew 1:21, Jesus “will save his people from their sins” (NKJV). That includes you. No one can bypass Jesus and be saved. Jesus is the panacea for man’s sin. The soul who sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:20a). This is the reason for the rescue mission: to save the world from sin and hell.
Peter, addressing the Sanhedrin, was categorical about it. He said, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 NLT). Nothing and nobody else can save anyone; only Jesus saves. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17 NKJV).
Be reconciled to God
Christmas is a time for sinners to be reconciled to their Maker through Jesus Christ. That includes you if you’ve not yet given your life to Jesus Christ and accepted Him as your Lord and Saviour. The apostle Paul said, “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19 NKJV). Paul implored the Corinthians to be reconciled to God (verse 20). Celebrating Christmas without Christ in someone’s heart is meaningless. Be reconciled to God through Christ Jesus.
The wise men were wise seeking Jesus. They took the trouble to come from the east to worship Him and honour Him with gifts out of their treasure. The journey took them some time (Matthew 2:1-11). Today, people don’t need to travel to seek Jesus. He is near them. Unfortunately, many are yet to seek Him but are preparing to celebrate Christmas. Christmas is more than a holiday period. It’s more than eating and drinking.
Those celebrating Christmas without a living relationship with Jesus Christ must be born again. How? Romans 10: 8-10 explains: “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (NKJV).
To be born again, someone must receive forgiveness of his sins from the Father through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. “Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God’” (John 3:3). No sinner can come to the Father. That’s why the angel told Joseph that Jesus would save His people (including you and me) from their sins. Then, they could come to the Father.
Choose where you’ll spend eternity
There is an eternity waiting for everybody after death: eternity with God (2 Thessalonians 4:17) or eternity with the devil in the lake of fire (Matthew 25:46; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 20:10). Hebrews 9:27 says it is appointed for men to die once but after this the judgment. In order to rescue us from the kingdom of darkness, the kingdom of Satan, the kingdom of sin, which will eventually lead us to eternity in hell, God sent His Son to be born and to die to save us from our sins and hell. Colossians1:13-14 says, “For he has rescued us from the one who rules in the kingdom of darkness, and he has brought us into the Kingdom of his dear Son. God has purchased our freedom with his blood and has forgiven all our sins” (NLT). Did you see that phrase “he has rescued us”? The same Jesus that was born a baby and laid in a manger later died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. He finished His rescue mission. It is finished (John 19:30).
Have you given your life to Jesus? Is your name in the register of those saved, which is called the Book of life? Revelation 20:15 says anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire. That won’t be you in Jesus’ name. But prayer is not enough. You must be born again.
Hell is such a terrible place that Jesus, expressing the severity of the suffering there, says, “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire” (Matthew 18:8-9 NKJV). He doesn’t mean you should literally cut off your hand and foot or pluck your eyes. He is emphasizing the need to take drastic measures against whatever can take you to hell.
From Jesus’ teachings, we learn that in hell, “Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:46, 48 NKJV). It is a place of outer darkness and a furnace of fire where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28).
God didn’t make hell for man; He made it for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). That’s the reason for His rescue mission that Christmas represents. The rescue mission was accomplished on the Cross of Calvary. If anyone chooses to follow Satan as all the fallen angels did, such a fellow will end in hell. God has placed before you life and death, asking you to choose what you want (Deuteronomy 30:15, 19; Jeremiah 21:8). Will you choose life or hell?
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The LORD be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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