The Birth of Jesus Christ
One Child Changed Everything
The birth of Jesus may be the most familiar aspect of the life of Jesus to many people. During the Christmas season, many people take time out of their schedules to reflect on the appearance of angels and coming of shepherds to a stable in Bethlehem. They exchange cards with Christmas greetings and pictures of wise men and nativity scenes. When they attend a church service on Christmas Sunday or Christmas Eve, they are again reminded of some of the historical details surrounding His birth. But often, their understanding of Christmas fails to penetrate beyond the obvious to discover the real meaning of what happened at Christmas.
Jesus is God Among Man
The Apostle John described that first Christmas with these words, “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). This brief statement describes what Bible teachers call “the Incarnation.” This word is used to describe God becoming a man, taking on human flesh. The mystery of the Incarnation implies several things about Jesus. First, it implies a preexistence of Christ prior to His birth. Second, it suggests some voluntary limitations of Christ as God during His life and ministry. Third, it explains why Jesus was necessarily born of a virgin rather than through the normal biological means of reproduction. Fourth, it serves as the basis for understanding the human and divine natures of Christ.
As the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus lived long before His physical “birth” in Bethlehem. Jesus existed with God from the beginning (John 1:1). Throughout the Old Testament, there are various appearances of God to men. Bible teachers refer to these appearances as Christophanies because they were preincarnate appearances of Christ. The very fact that Jesus is God demands His existence from eternity to eternity (Ps. 90:1).
Jesus “Emptied” Himself to Become Human
But how could the Eternal God take on human flesh? The answer to that question is found in what Bible teachers call “the kenosis.” Kenosis is a Greek word which means “emptied.” The apostle Paul used this word to describe Jesus emptying Himself to become a man (Phil. 2:7). Jesus remained God, but He emptied himself by veiling his glory, accepting the limitations of being a human, and voluntarily giving up the independent use of His relative attributes.
Even though John saw the glory of Jesus during his years with his Master (John 1:14), it was a veiled glory. Later, on the island of Patmos, John saw Jesus in His resurrected glory and “fell at His feet as dead” (Rev. 1:17). Although Jesus performed miracles, He was also subject to human limitations and experienced things like hunger (Matt. 4:2) and thirst (John 4:6). Even in doing miracles, He relied on the power of the Holy Spirit to do the will of His Father (John 5:19).
Why was Jesus willing to empty Himself, setting aside all that was rightfully His to become a man? There are several reasons which may have motivated Him in this act. First, the act of sacrifice was an act of love (John 15:13). Because He loved us, He was prepared to become a man and go to the Cross even when we continued to reject Him (Rom. 5:8). Second, this was the best way He could reveal His Father to us (John 1:14, 18; 14:7-11). Third, it was the only way He could provide salvation to counter the effects of Adam’s sin (Rom. 5:12-21). Finally, He humbled Himself as an example for us to follow (Phil. 2:5).
The Virgin Birth
When we understand the deity of Jesus – that He is God – it becomes easier to understand why He was miraculously conceived in a virgin. When the human race fell into sin, God offered hope in “the seed of the woman” (Gen. 3:15). Later, Isaiah prophesied, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14). In the New Testament, Matthew, Luke, and Paul each describe the Virgin Birth of Jesus (Matt. 1:25; Luke 1:27; 3:23; Gal. 4:4).
The result of the Virgin Birth is that Jesus was born with the human nature of His mother and the divine nature of His Father. He did not inherit a sin nature that we inherit from our fathers because His Father was God. The Scriptures are very clear concerning Christ and His absence of sin. Christ knew no sin (2 Cor. 5:2), was without sin (Heb. 4:15), did no sin (1 Pet. 2:22), and there was no sin found in Him (1 John 3:5).
Completely God, Completely Man
When Christian leaders tried to explain the human and divine natures of Jesus at the Council of Chalcedon in A.D. 451, they issued a statement which described Jesus as “made known in two natures without confusion, without change, without division, without separation, the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union.” When Jesus became a man, He remained God while also becoming human. Neither of these natures was in any way corrupted or altered in the process.
The Bible has several things to say about this unique union of two natures. Jesus was both completely human and completely divine. This union of natures was complete, not partial, and was permanent (Heb. 13:8). Finally, this union of natures has continued beyond the resurrection of Christ. Today, “the man Christ Jesus” acts as our mediator before God the Father (1 Tim. 2:5).
The Birth of Christ Means Hope
The incarnation of Christ gives special meaning and significance to Christmas.
The Christmas season celebrates the moment in human history when “the Word became flesh” to:
- Confirm God’s promises (Rom. 15:8; Matt. 5:17)
- Reveal the Father (John 1:18)
- Become a faithful high priest (Heb. 5:1; 7:25)
- put away sin (Gen. 22:8; John 1:29), destroy the works of Satan (1 John 3:8), and provide an example for us to follow (1 John 2:6; 1 Peter 2:21).