I’m not one of those people that gets really excited about Christmas every year, listening to Christmas music and decorating the house. I never really cared much about the gifts and the nice food and the holiday spirit in general. But there is one part of the Christmas season that I am very thankful for, not just at Christmas, but the whole year round, and that is the life that Jesus lived while He was here on earth.
We have a holiday to celebrate Jesus’ birth, and we have a holiday to remember the day He died for us on the cross and then rose again, but the real reason to celebrate is everything in between: the life that Jesus lived.
He cared for us
Before Jesus came down to earth, He was in heaven with His Father (Proverbs 8:27-31), and I’m sure it was very glorious there! But He saw us suffering on earth. He saw how we struggled with the sin in our nature, and how we could never come free from it because no one had showed us how. He cared so much for us that He gave up His place in heaven and came down to earth to show us a new way to live.
He knew what was going to be asked of Him. He knew the trials and sufferings He would face by taking on flesh and blood like the rest of us. (Philippians 2:5-8; Hebrews 2:14-15; Hebrews 5:7-8.) He knew that He would be tempted, just like we are. (Hebrews 4:15.) But He was willing to suffer all of that so that we could learn by His life how to come free from sin.
And that is something to get really excited about!
No, Jesus didn’t just come to give us forgiveness for our sins. They had that already in the days before Jesus, by offering up sacrifices in the temple. If Jesus had just come with the forgiveness of sins, He wouldn’t really have brought anything new. But no, He came to show us how to overcome! How to stop sinning!
Now, instead of sinning again and again, and having to ask for forgiveness every time, I can stop sinning! Jesus showed us how, when He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You must not be guilty of adultery.’ But I tell you that if anyone looks at a woman and wants to sin sexually with her, in his mind he has already done that sin with the woman.” Matthew 5:27-28 (NCV).
This is the answer that Jesus came with! Right in my heart and mind – in my thoughts – I can say No to temptation, and then that temptation will never develop into sin, causing harm to myself and to those around me.
How hopeful for me!
This is how Jesus took it. He never sinned, although He was tempted just like I am, as it is written in Hebrews 4:15. How hopeful for me! I have every reason to celebrate His birth. He took on the form of a man when He came to earth, so He had no special abilities or gifts that made it easier for Him to overcome temptation than anyone else. (Hebrews 2:17-18.) That means that if He did it, I can do it too! I can totally overcome sin – right when it comes up in my thoughts – and I never have to be troubled by a guilty conscience anymore because I have sinned.
How light and free this is! Giving in to sin has just brought misery for me and those around me. Selfishness, for example, becomes like a disease if I let it live, causing me to be more and more busy with only what I can get and have for myself. But Jesus was so selfless, and determined on doing God’s will that even when He faced death on the cross, His words were, “Let not my will but yours be done." Luke 22:42 (CJB).
What an example to follow! I feel like I owe Jesus a great debt of love for coming down to earth and suffering and dying to make this possible for me. And the best way – in fact the only truly fitting way – to repay that debt is to follow in His footsteps and use every temptation as an opportunity to overcome sin so that His suffering for me was not useless. Then I will be filled with joy, and I will rule with Him in eternity, which is what He really wants.
“It was only right that God, who creates and preserves all things, should make Jesus perfect through suffering, in order to bring many children to share his glory. For Jesus is the one who leads them to salvation. He purifies people from their sins, and both he and those who are made pure all have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his family [brothers and sisters].” Hebrews 2:10-18 (GNT).