Posted On December 10, 2018

Keeping Focused on Christ During the Holidays

by | Dec 10, 2018 | Discovering Joy in Christ During the Holidays, Featured

“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.”[1]

As we approach this season of Advent, we would do well as Christians to pause from the hustle and bustle of life and give thought to the “reason for this season.” In the 21st century world which we find ourselves now engaged, there are a plethora of distractions, amusements, and occupations that vie for our time and attention. The Christmas holiday season is perhaps the busiest and most joyful time of year for many, while for others, it is a time of deep loneliness, sadness, or depression.

With endless Christmas movies airing around the clock, wall to wall Christmas carols playing over the radio, cookie baking, party planning, and present exchanging, it can be easy for some to get caught up in the joy and cheer of the season and yet others may feel excluded, sorrowful, or depressed. There is a tension in every Christmas season of joy and cheer mixed with sadness and despair, and this owing largely to the human condition. We are all in some way or another broken by the effects of sin.

Wherever you are this season, I pray that this article will edify your soul by pointing you to the true reason for this season: Jesus Christ. Whether this is the most joyful time of year for you or the most depressing, this article is for you. The Puritan John Owen wrote regarding the person of Christ, “Let us get it fixed in our minds that this glory of Christ in his divine-human person, is the best, the most noble and beneficial truth that we can think about or set our hearts on.”[2].

The real reason for this season is the incarnation of Jesus Christ. We worship a God who is not far off but one who has come near. This time of the year affords us a unique time to meditate and ponder that great and glorious name for Christ; Immanuel- God with us. Speaking of the glory of Christ’s person, John Owen writes, “this is the glory of our religion, the glory of the church, the only rock on which it was built, the only source of present grace and future glory.”[3] Owen goes on to write that “it is the neglect of meditation that keeps people in a feeble state.”[4]

“Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery”

The Puritan Thomas Goodwin wonderfully described the incarnation of Christ thus: “when the Son became flesh, heaven and earth met and kissed one another, namely, God and man.”[5] The Incarnation of the Son of God is the miracle of all miracles and the mystery of all mysteries. It is a miracle that is not fully fathomable by any man and a mystery that will never fully be understood, yet it is true. The apostle John tells us, “And the word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory. Glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”[6]

When we speak of the “reason for the season,” here is the question that I wish you will ponder regardless of your circumstances: Why did God take on flesh? Why would the God of glory, full of grace and truth, condescend to take on frail human flesh, subject himself to the effects of sin and the curse, and dwell among us? Why did the King of kings and Lord of lords, instead of being born in palace grandeur, choose the humble manger as his crib?

My dear reader, whether you presently find yourself reading this in a joyful spirit, a deep depression, or somewhere in between, remember this one thing: the purpose of the Incarnation was to glorify God through the salvation of sinners. God’s love for sinners was so great that he sent His only begotten Son into the world to redeem them from their mortal enemies: sin and death.

Galatians 4:4-5 tells us, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth 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.” The humbling glory of the gospel is that Jesus laid aside his heavenly glory in order that the glory of heaven might be revealed to us. Friend, if you are savingly united to Christ, then you have been redeemed from the curse of the law. No longer is any condemnation or wrath hanging over your head. The great promise made by the angel to Joseph in Matthew 1 was that Jesus would save his people from their sins. This ought to stop us in our tracks and humble us in recognition of the work of God’s grace on our behalf.

“He the Theme of Heaven’s Praises, Clothed in Frail Humanity”

It should be an immense comfort to us that the Word became flesh. The American Puritan Increase Mather writes regarding the incarnation of Christ:

“It was altogether necessary that the mediator should be Godman. If Christ had been man only, he could not have been a mediator; he could not have saved one sinner nor satisfied for one sin. And if he had not been a man, but God only, he could not have been a mediator… since the elect are partakers of flesh and blood, he himself likewise took part of the same. Otherwise he could not have died, nor have made reconciliation for the sins of his people. Except he had been made flesh, he could not have shed his blood to make atonement for sinners”[7].

Whether you find yourself extremely busy this holiday season or simply down and out, stop for a moment and think about this: our very salvation depends on the Incarnation of Christ. 1 Timothy 1:15a says, “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Now think about this, if Christ did not take on flesh and blood, then we have no atonement for our sins or any mediator before a holy and righteous God. If we have no atonement or mediator, then we have no propitiation, and if there is no propitiation, then the wrath of God abides on us even now. Praise be to God for the birth of Jesus Christ! That God would send His only begotten Son into the world to save unworthy sinners like ourselves is the richest gift that could ever be given.

“Look to Christ”

During this season of Advent, I encourage you to set your mind often upon the mediatorial work of Christ on your behalf. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Our Savior Jesus Christ does not now stand unconcerned and distant from us in the heavenlies. No, the picture that scripture paints is quite the opposite.

We have a high priest who loves and sympathizes with us and who prays for us in our weakness. Your sins, as Goodwin puts it:

“Your sins move Christ to pity more than to anger. Yea, his pity is increased more towards you, even as the heart of a father is to a child that hath some loathsome disease… his hatred shall all fall, and that only upon the sin, to free you of it by its ruin and destruction… Therefore, fear not, ‘what shall separate us from Christ’s love?”[8]

Believer, you cannot do anything now to make Christ love you any more or less. He is not now holding a hammer over your head for your indwelling sin but he pities you, and prays for you, and gives you the present grace to sustain you. This is all because of his redeeming love, and it is only possible because of his incarnation.

We do not have a High Priest who is far off. We have one who came near; Immanuel- God with us. We do not have a High Priest who is unfamiliar with pain, suffering, and temptation but we have a High Priest who sympathizes with us in all things. This Christmas season, take time to stop and meditate on these things. Take time amid the hustle and bustle of the season to quietly consider the lengths which Christ went to bring sinners back to God. Take comfort dear Christian, no matter your circumstances this season, in the precious mediation of Christ for you, and rest well in his perfect love.

To the Unconverted Reader

My friend, although this article was written primarily for Christ’s brethren, yet perhaps the Lord will see fit by His Spirit to use this to save your soul if you are presently estranged from him. If you aren’t a Christian, I plead with you to consider the state of your present condition apart from the Lord Jesus Christ. While he pities his people, his wrath abides on you as his hostile enemy. My friend, I plead with you now to come and be reconciled to God through faith in His only begotten Son- Jesus the Christ. Isaiah 59:2 says “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God. And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear you.” Your sins have created a chasm between you and God and no amount of righteous works on your part can make up for your sin. Even your ‘good deeds’ are as filthy rags in the eyes of God. Only one person’s righteousness can save you, and that is the perfect righteousness of Christ obtained only by grace through faith in him. The good news of Advent for you is that God sent a Savior into the world to save sinners. I beg you to repent of your sinful self-righteousness and to cast yourself entirely on the perfect righteousness of Jesus the Savior who alone can save sinners from the wrath of God and grant you eternal life in His name.

[1] Hymns of Grace. (2015). 1st ed. Los Angeles: The Masters Seminary Press, p. 184. “Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery”

[2] John Owen, The Glory of Christ, p. 30.

[3] IBID. p. 28

[4] IBID. p. 34

[5] Thomas Goodwin, Works, 2:82

[6] John 1:14, NASB

[7] Increase Mather, The Mystery of Christ Opened and Applied, p. 87 (This book is presently not in print. I am in the process of editing this book for publication and hope to see it published within the next few months).

[8] Thomas Goodwin, Works 4:149, 156

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