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Posted by Alister Begg for www.truthforlife.org
The First Advent: Four Reasons Christ Came
November 30, 2021
This time of year, Christians often ask a question that goes something like this: In our increasingly secular age, how can we sustain the true value, the true meaning of Christmas?
If we are going to answer this question faithfully, though, then surely we must first know why we celebrate this holiday. And for that, we need look no further than to the simple yet unimaginably profound statements of the Gospels:
An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:20–21)
The angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10–11)
These texts take us straight to the heart of Christmas: the long-expected advent of Christ our Lord. Two thousand years ago, God Himself, the eternal Word, “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). We should never gloss over such a glorious reality but instead soak up the wonders of the incarnation and celebrate it with all the joy it’s due! But we also must remember that Christmas is not a goal unto itself—that is, that the incarnation is a beginning, not an end point.
With that in mind, let’s consider together four reasons that Christ came that very first advent.
Jesus Came to Take Away Our Sins
Matthew’s Gospel points us to the truth that Jesus came to “save his people from their sins” (1:21). Similarly, as Jesus begins His earthly ministry in John’s Gospel, John the Baptist announces, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (1:29). Paul adds this more systematic statement to the mix in his grand treatise to the Romans: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (5:8).
In our broader culture, the imagery of Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem usually evokes a measure of sentimentality and feelings of peace and love. Certainly, Christmas is a time to enjoy such warm feelings. But it’s also much more than that. As Jesus declares to Zacchaeus in Luke 19:10, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Christmas had as its goal Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Resurrection Sunday, when Christ utterly triumphed over death, dealt it a lethal blow, and paved the path to reconciliation with God.
This was Christ’s mission, accomplished on the cross, where He gave Himself up for His people. Christmas, then, is actually about the love Jesus displayed on the cross, for “greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Christmas had as its goal Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Resurrection Sunday, when Christ utterly triumphed over death, dealt it a lethal blow, and paved the path to reconciliation with God.
Jesus Came to Destroy Satan’s Work
At the incarnation, our Savior came not only to defeat death but also “to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). The arrival of Christ in Bethlehem was a signal of the beginning of the end for Satan and all his ways.
Now, we must bear in mind that the devil is still active and alive, even if he has been doomed to fail since the beginning (Gen. 3:15). Peter would remind us, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Still, though he prowls, Satan is chained. He may snarl and roar and grab for us, but Christ came to destroy his works.
John assures us that “everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him” (1 John 5:18). The very one “born of God,” Jesus Christ, will guard those who come after Him. Ultimately, though Satan deceives, accuses, lies, and hinders, he cannot touch us. His time is nearly up. His final destruction has been guaranteed. (See Rev. 20:10.)
Jesus Came to Make the Father Known
The arrival of Jesus in Bethlehem was like God taking a brush and painting a self-portrait right across eternity and into the view of time. We no longer have to wonder what God is like; instead, we can gaze upon “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). As John’s Gospel puts it, while “no one has ever seen God,” Jesus Christ “has made him known” (John 1:18). He is not only the Word incarnate (1:14) but also God’s final message to the world—His last word, the one and only Son through whom “he has spoken” (Heb. 1:2).
What a marvelous mystery it is that this baby Jesus, suckled at the breast of His mother and rocked to sleep in the arms of His earthly father, was and remains fully God! He seemed a helpless, wriggling infant, but He was God’s Son, who is now glorified in heaven and rules over all. Though He cried like any other and weighed a mere handful of pounds in the manger, He would eventually declare with absolute authority, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Jesus Christ, both fully God and fully man, came to manifest God to the world.
Jesus Came to Prepare for a Second Advent