We are used to answers like, “Because he loved us” or “In order to die for us” or “In order to be with us.” All of these answers are good biblical answers, but the problem is that they do not tell us WHY he loved us, or WHY he died for us, or WHY he came to be with us. When you tell someone who has no idea what Christmas is, maybe telling them that God became man in order to love us is good enough. But non-Christian or Christian, eventually we want to know WHY behind his life, death, and resurrection.
That’s actually why Anselm wrote the book, Cur deus homo? There are two parts to his answer. Many who are familiar with this book know the first part. Most do not know about the second. The first part is: God became man because only God can forgive man’s sin revealing God’s grace, and only man has to pay the penalty of sin, revealing God’s justice. Thus in one person, God’s grace and justice is revealed at the same time.
But this first part only covers half of the reason why God became man. It basically tells us what we are saved from, and not what we are saved for. And that’s covered in the second part: In man's sinful nature, man lacks the power, ability and free will to fully live for God. However, in His divine nature, God has the power, ability and the free will to die for man so that man might fully live for God.
This truth is not easy to understand, because it is meant to be experienced. Christ’s birth is good news only to people who know they are shackled to their own guilt, fear, and shame, and are desperate for relief and freedom. To those who think they are living a fine life without God, Christ’s birth is just a big superstition.
I love Christmas because in spite of all the commercial aspects of the season, the power of Christ’s birth still holds sway over people all over the world. Sinners who look to Christ are set free from their guilt, fear, and shame. Those who are proud are brought down. Valleys are filled, and mountains are made low.
I knew a person who was like a scrooge all his life, trying to get a little bit more money each year. He was a “Christian” but never really knew the message of Christmas. Each year he would encourage others to earn more money. Sadly, each year, he would become more greedy, more lonely, and less happy. I recently met him, and heard from him this: “I never felt so poor financially, but I never felt so alive and happy.” And he would describe how happy he is at a small church, doing menial work, helping others. That is the power of Christmas. Christ set us free from the shackles of our self-centeredness to live for God in a way we thought never possible.