To Christians, Christmas is both a commemoration and celebration of the fact that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” If however, that first Christmas was all there was, there would be little reason for anyone to believe in Jesus and the promise of eternal life would be lost to all. But that’s not all there was.
Jesus, as he lived and walked among men did so as a man. He faced the same temptations that all mankind faces, the same needs and desires, the same choices between good and evil, and had to deal with personal relationships and the other problems of simply being human. In the end it was His supreme faith in God, prayer, willingness to submit Himself to God’s will, and His love for us that led Him to the agony and humiliation of the cross.
As He anguished in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” The “cup” was not the beatings, the crown of thorns, public humiliation and scorn, or His agonizing crucifixion on the cross. What was paining Jesus was the knowledge that He would be separated from His Father as He bore the burden of all mankind’s sins and sacrificed Himself for its redemption so that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
If that was all there was, that Jesus died a horrible and painful death for that in which He professed belief, most of His followers would have considered Him a hero and, like thousands of heroes and martyrs before and after Him, He would have either been lost in the sands of time or, at best, become a memory in the pages of history. But, that’s not all there was.
At various times during His ministry Jesus had predicted His suffering and death and that He “would be raised up on the third day.” The same political and religious power and clout that lead to His suffering and death on the cross went through great lengths to make sure that Jesus stayed dead and would become a distant memory as soon as possible. They sealed His body in a tomb with a large rock and placed Roman soldiers to guard its entrance and, in the end, because they did, provided very proof that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
As Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early on the third day, she found the rock rolled away, the guards shaking in fear, an empty tomb, and an angel of God who said, “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said.” In the following days His disciples and many others saw the living Lord, Christ, Jesus, the Son of God alive and interacted with Him.
Praise God, we have a risen Lord who lives and loved each and every one of us enough to pay for our sins, those of yesterday, today and tomorrow, by shedding His own body and blood on our behalf. All we have to do is accept His gift, for “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”