WHAT do Christians say Christmas is about? There is a concise explanation in the New Testament. The apostle Paul describes it as ‘a trustworthy saying, worthy of full acceptance’ and this is it: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ Allow me to unpack those nine words.
You are probably more used to hearing the first two the other way around i.e. Jesus Christ rather than Christ Jesus. The former can be misinterpreted with ‘Jesus’ being a forename, and ‘Christ’ a surname. However, the term Christ is not a surname but more like a title or name of office as in: Lord Sebastian Coe, Prince William or Judge John Deed. Christ (or Messiah in Hebrew) was to be a uniquely appointed and prepared person sent by God, to deliver his people from that which enslaved them. The promise of the coming Christ is referred to time and time again in the Jewish Scriptures, which we know as the Old Testament. The name Jesus means ‘God saves’.
The words ‘came into the world’ are pregnant with meaning. They do not mean that at one time Jesus never existed and then at another time he did. Jesus made it clear that he had always existed alongside God his Father and had come from the heavenly realm to enter our earthly realm. But for what purpose?
The final phrase in our short statement leaves us in no doubt; ‘to save sinners’. Who are these sinners which need saving? Basically a sinner is anyone who acts on the belief that God’s rule in his or her life would not be in their ultimate best interests. When someone takes this view, they are actually rejecting God’s goodness, love, faithfulness, justice and all of his attributes which work together for our good. And it is this rejection which is the sin from which he offers to forgive and thereby save us from its consequences.
Christmas is a good time to check that we have understood the glad tidings about Christ Jesus and respond accordingly.
Stephen Richards, Shirley Baptist Church