Christians the world over celebrate Christmas in honor of the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. Various Christmas traditions have been associated with the celebration of Christmas, and different cultures celebrate different ways. The unifying factor is the historical fact that Jesus was born, c. 5 BC. The angel who appeared to the shepherds the night of Jesus’ birth said, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10–11).
We celebrate Christmas because, as the angel said, the birth of Jesus Christ is “good news.” Good news is meant to be celebrated. In fact, the angel said the news of Jesus’ birth would cause “great joy” and would be “for all the people”—the joyful celebration would be universal. People around the globe would be glad for this occasion.
We celebrate Christmas because, as the angel said, “A Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” The three titles the angel applies to Jesus are important. Jesus is the Savior who delivers us from sin and death (Matthew 1:21). He is the human Messiah (or Christ) who fulfills the Law and the Prophets, showing that God is faithful (see Matthew 5:17). And He is the divine Lord who has entered our world: the Almighty has taken on human flesh; God and man have been fused together in an indivisible, eternal bond; God is truly with us (see Matthew 1:23).
In celebrating Christmas, we celebrate the Savior, because we needed deliverance. We celebrate the Christ in whom all of God’s promises are “Yes” and “Amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20). We celebrate the Lord who in humility took on “the very nature of a servant” for our sakes (see Philippians 2:6–8).
We celebrate Christmas with gift-giving because of the “indescribable gift” that God gave to us (2 Corinthians 9:15). We celebrate Christmas by stringing lights because the Light of the world has come to us (John 1:4; Isaiah 9:2). We celebrate Christmas with carols and choirs because they are expressive of joy and follow the examples of Mary and Zacharias and Simeon and the angels, all of whom extolled the Lord in poetry (Luke 1–2). We celebrate Christmas by decorating evergreen trees with stars and angels and tinsel because of the eternal life Jesus brings (John 4:14)—and stars and angels and beauty were all associated with Jesus’ birth.
In celebrating Christmas we celebrate the love and condescension of God. In Texas in 1987, a toddler by the name of Jessica McClure fell into an eight-inch well casing. Down she went, becoming stuck twenty-two feet below ground. Once people discovered that “Baby Jessica” was in the well, they took immediate action. They didn’t tell her to find a way to climb back up, and they didn’t just shout happy thoughts to encourage her. No, they went down to where she was and got her. They did whatever it took. Rescuers worked nonstop for fifty-eight hours to free her.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve fell. Down they went, dragging all humanity with them into the darkness and death of sin. And what did God do? He did not tell us to find our own way out of the mess we were in, and He did more than shout down happy thoughts to us from heaven. No, He came down to where we were and got us. That’s what Christmas is all about—God’s coming down to rescue us, to do whatever it took to deliver us from sure death.
When even one person is in a life-threatening situation, we understand what has to be done. When God looked down at our sinful planet, He saw a whole world of people in mortal danger. We celebrate Christmas because it was at Christmastime that the Rescuer of all mankind came to save us from the hopeless situation we were in. God did not stay in heaven; He came down to where we are.