“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” - Matthew 1:21

America has a fairly conversant history with Christianity so most have at least a general understanding of what Christmas is about: Mary and Joseph, the baby in a manger, no room in the inn, shepherds and wise men. But deep excitement at the event of the incarnation is always in danger of morphing into a shallow sentimental optimism about humanity. The movies and songs we watch and hear this time of year would have us search out a spark of divinity deep in our hearts and believe only the best about ourselves. The message is that people are basically pure and we ought to just “be good for goodness sake.”

But can we honestly say humanity’s great source of misery is a lack of self-esteem? Is it a lack of self-discipline? Is the big problem outside of us and our only solution deep inside of us? No, our need is much more radical than humanistic psychology or sociology would have us believe. Our great problem comes from within our sinful nature and our solution can only come from the outside. We are right to seek out the presence of divinity, but we are too easily fooled into thinking it’s inside us.

Let’s not try to improve upon the good news of the biblical account of Christmas. Jesus wasn’t born merely to be a teacher or a good example. His name means “the LORD saves.” This is what we mean when we confess to believe in Jesus: he alone can rescue his people from their sins.

Song: Mary Consoles Eve