The Essence of Christmas (John 1:1-18; 2 Corinthians 8:9)

The Essence of Christmas (John 1:1-18; 2 Corinthians 8:9)


I.) God Became Flesh

This week we are preparing to celebrate the greatest mystery of the Christian faith. It is not a mystery in the sense that people are incapable of knowing it, but one in which people are incapable of fully comprehending it.

This week we celebrate the truth that a Child was born to us, a Son was given to us; whose shoulders the government rests upon, and whose name is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.[1] We rejoice that One came from the little town of Bethlehem, One whose times of coming forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.[2] We delight in the truth that a virgin conceived and gave birth to a Son named, Immanuel, “God with us.”[3] This week we will celebrate the mysterious truth that God became flesh and dwelt among us.[4] There are two truths here which are so far reaching that our minds will never be able to fully comprehend them.


II.) The Loving Condescension of Christ

The First, is that the Creator of heaven and earth, subjected Himself to the limitations of His creation. The Self-existent One, who has always been and needs nothing to sustain Himself, clothed Himself in humanity taking on our limits and experiences. He was birthed,[5] He grew,[6] He felt hunger and thirst,[7] He experienced exhaustion,[8] He slept,[9] He wept,[10] He felt anger,[11] sorrow,[12] compassion,[13] love,[14] joy,[15] He prayed,[16] He learned the Scripture,[17] He endured suffering ,[18] and He tasted death.[19] As Pilate said when he presented Jesus to the people, “Behold, the Man!”[20] He was in Pilate’s possessions, because He, being a Man made Himself out to be God.[21]

Jesus Christ is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature.[22] In Him all the fullness of God dwells in bodily form.[23] John’s gospel sums it up for us, “No one has seen God at any time; God the only Son, who is in the arms of the Father, He has explained Him.”[24] Meaning this, that when you look upon Christ, you look upon God.

J.I. Packer said:

“’The Word became flesh’; God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation.”[25]

Henry Law, an influential figure in evangelicalism during the 19th century said:

“What self-denial! What self-abasement! What self-emptying! He, whom no infinitudes can hold, is contained within infant’s age, and infant’s form. Can it be, that the great “I AM THAT I AM” shrinks into our flesh?”

The Gospel accounts emphatically declare that, “Yes, it can be that the great  “I AM THAT I AM” shrunk into our flesh!”

This brings us to the second far reaching truth, which is that it is not only His taking humanity onto Himself which is unfathomable, but that He did it to demonstrate His great love towards us by becoming a Man obedient to death on the cross for us;[26] us who are helpless, and ungodly, and are sinners, and who are both by nature and choice His enemies.[27] We deserved eternal death, but He gave us eternal life.[28]


III.) The Essence of Christmas

May we never lose sight of the essence of Christmas, which is summed up in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”

Philippians 2:5-8 explains to us how He was rich, how He became poor, and what He did so that we might become rich through His poverty:

“For He, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God’s equal, but stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal.”[29]

How was He rich? He had always been God by nature. How did He become poor? He did not cling to his prerogatives as God’s equal, but stripped Himself of privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. He took on humanity, thus making Him now and forever the God-man. Truly God and truly Man. He possessed all divine attributes, but in His humbled state He refrained from fully expressing those qualities unless the Father willed Him to do so. What did He do so that we might become rich through His poverty? Having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal. The author of Hebrews says:

14 Since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. 16 For assuredly He does notgive help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. 17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

As a Man, Jesus Christ not only died for us, He lived for us. It is a trustworthy statement worthy of full acceptance that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.[30] To do this He not only took our sins on His body and nailed them to the cross to cancel out our sin debt; He lived a life of perfect obedience to God. He takes away our sin and gives us His righteousness. He took our sin upon His body and suffered and died as if He lived our lives, and He gives us His righteousness so that we will forever live as if we lived His life.

It was Athanasius that said, “He became what we are that we might become what He is.” John Calvin gave a similar thought when he said, “The Son of God became the Son of Man that the sons of men might become the sons of God.” Calvin says elsewhere:

“Having become with us the Son of Man, He has made us with Himself sons of God. By His own descent to the earth He has prepared our ascent to heaven. Having received our mortality, He has bestowed on us His immortality. Having undertaken our weakness, He has made us strong in His strength. Having submitted to our poverty, He has transferred to us His riches. Having taken upon Himself the burden of unrighteousness with which we were oppressed, He has clothed us with His righteousness.”

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.[31] All who believe will not perish, because God loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation of our sins.[32] He did this so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.[33] God gave us His only Son so that He might make Him who knew no sin to become our sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.[34] He was rich, yet for our sake He became poor, so that we through His poverty might become rich.

Galatians 4:4-5 says:

“When the fullness of the time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons and daughters.”

2 Timothy 1:9-10 says that God:

9 …saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was granted to us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, 10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

Titus 3:4-7 says:

“When the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we did in righteousness, but in accordance with His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,whom He richly poured out upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

John 1:10-12 says:

10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through Him, and yet the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own people did notaccept Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a man, but of God.”


IV.) The Wondrous Mystery

Listen to the truths we as a church sing back to God:

 “Come behold the wondrous mystery
In the dawning of the King
He the theme of heaven’s praises
Robed in frail humanity

In our longing, in our darkness
Now the light of life has come

Look to Christ, who condescended
Took on flesh to ransom us

Come behold the wondrous mystery
He the perfect Son of Man
In His living, in His suffering
Never trace nor stain of sin

See the true and better Adam
Come to save the hell-bound man
Christ the great and sure fulfillment
Of the law; in Him we stand

Come behold the wondrous mystery
Christ the Lord upon the tree
In the stead of ruined sinners
Hangs the Lamb in victory

See the price of our redemption
See the Father’s plan unfold
Bringing many sons to glory
Grace unmeasured, love untold

Come behold the wondrous mystery
Slain by death the God of life
But no grave could e’er restrain Him
Praise the Lord; He is alive!

What a foretaste of deliverance
How unwavering our hope
Christ in power resurrected
As we will be when he comes.”[35]

            It is because of Christmas Day that we can sing such a song. The day that a Child was born to us, a Son was given to us; whose shoulders the government rests upon, and whose name is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.[36] That day when One came from the little town of Bethlehem, One whose times of coming forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.[37] The day that a virgin conceived and gave birth to a Son and named Him, Immanuel, “God with us.”[38] The day that God became flesh and dwelt among us to “save His people from their sins.”[39]

This week, let us fix our minds upon the love of God towards us in Christ. We deserved death, but He gave us life in His Son. May we celebrate His giving to us generously of Himself by giving of ourselves to Him and to others. May we render ourselves as slaves of Christ, and of men. May this not be done just once a year, but every moment of our lives by setting our minds on the fact that He was rich, yet for our sake He became poor, so that we through His poverty might become rich. May you all have a Merry Christmas!


[1] Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-20

[2] Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1-6

[3] Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22-23

[4] John 1:14

[5] Matthew 2:1

[6] Luke 2:40

[7] Matthew 4:2; John 4:7

[8] John 4:6

[9] Matthew 4:38

[10] John 11:35

[11] Mark 3:5

[12] Matthew 26:37

[13] Matthew 9:36

[14] Mark 10:21

[15] Luke 10:21

[16] Matthew 14:23

[17] Matthew 4:4

[18] Matthew 16:21; Luke 22:44

[19] Mark 15:37-39; Luke 23:44-46

[20] John 19:5

[21] John 10:33

[22] Hebrews 1:3

[23] Colossians 2:9

[24] John 1:18

[25] Knowing God, J.I. Packer; Page 53

[26] Romans 5:8

[27] Romans 5:6,8,10

[28] Romans 6:23

[29] J.B. Phillips Translation

[30] 1 Timothy 1:15

[31] John 3:16

[32] 1 John 4:10

[33] Romans 3:26

[34] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[35] Come Behold The Wondrous Mystery, Matt Boswell and Matt Papa

[36] Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-20

[37] Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1-6

[38] Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22-23

[39] John 1:14; Matthew 1:21

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