The Christian religion is based on the Savior Jesus Christ. We celebrate Christmas because Christ entered the world as Savior. He came to pay for our sins and show us how to receive eternal life. This was done by His becoming man. He lead a sinless life and died on the cross to be resurrected. These two events are celebrated as Christmas and Easter.
As one theologian wrote in the early fourth century “We hold this day holy, not like the pagans because of the birth of the sun, but because of him who made it. In three hundred thirty seven AD, Roman Emperor Constantine was baptized, uniting for the first time the emperorship and the church. Christianity became the official state religion. In three hundred fifty four AD, Bishop Liperius of Rome reiterated the importance of celebrating not only Christ’s death but also his birth (Panatis 68). In seven hundred and one BC the prophet Isaiah wrote, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanual.” Seven hundred years later an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream. The angel said that Mary, his wife would give birth to a son conceived from the Holy Spirit. Joseph was to name him Jesus, because he would save his people from their sins. This took place to fulfill what the Lord said through the prophet Isaiah (Matthew 1:21).
In the Bible, a physician named Luke wrote “In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end”(Luke 1:30-33).
The reason Christ entered this world was to pay the penalty for our sins. After seeing Jesus, John the Baptist said, “Look, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John.1:29). In fifty seven AD Paul the apostle, in a letter to the Roman church, wrote “God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He died for us because someone had to pay the price for our sins. Also, we read in the letter to the Romans, “All have sinned and fall short of thegloryofGod” (Romans 3:23).
The Bible teaches us that sins are any transgressions of God’s laws which include, lying, lust, cheating, deceit, anger, evil thoughts, immoral behavior and more (Kennedy). For example, let’s look at just one of the ten commandments, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name” (Exodus 20:7). This one sin in itself is enough to fail many of us. Because of this potential for sin man cannot save himself. The Bible says you would have to be perfect, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). James the brother of Jesus wrote, “Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumbles in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). We have all heard that “God is love.” That came from a letter the apostle John wrote (1John 4:8). Six hundred years earlier the prophet Jeremiah wrote “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: I have loved you with an everlasting love.” The Lord also said to Moses “I will by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:7),
In the book of Ezekiel we read “The soul who sins shall die.” That puts us in a awkward place. If we sin, we will die, by this he means lose eternal life. By Gods measure we have all sinned. In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul states that the wages of sin is death and if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die and suffer eternal damnation (Romans 6:23, 8:13). Now we have a problem. In order to be good enough to be in heaven with God we have to be perfect. Because none of us are perfect and we all sin, the sin has to be dealt with. Someone had to pay for our transgressions.
God solved our problem with the person of Jesus Christ. John the apostle described Jesus this way, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:1,14). The Bible tells us that Jesus lived a sinless life. The prophet Isaiah wrote “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
In the book of Acts Paul says “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” “Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if any one hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him” (Revelation 3:20). If we accept him as our Lord and Savior, repent from our sins and trust in him, he gives us the right to become children of God and spend eternity with him. This gift is received through faith. In Paul’s letter to the Romans he states; “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. It is with your heart you are justified and with your mouth you are saved. This is all summed up in what the apostle John recorded Jesus saying “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in me has eternal life.”
Now, the importance of Christmas should be more apparent. It is not just to bring people together or to stimulate the economy by giving gifts. It is the celebration of the day the Lord almighty showed his love for us. He did this by sending his only son to die for us. In Christ’s death, and by the grace of God, we can spend eternity in heaven with God.
Now we will look at Easter and see why it is so important to the Christian religion. Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. This day is what makes the Christian religion different than any other religion. No other religion has a Savior who has been resurrected. In the Bible the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” He also says, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile … ” (1Corinthians15:14,17). Paul was one of the apostle who saw Christ after the resurrection. He claimed “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead” (1Corinthians 15:20). Paul describes the story this way; “that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and then He appeared to Peter and then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more then five hundred” (1Corinthians 15:4-6). The Apostle’s Creed states that Christ was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell; The third day he rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven (Broderick).
Unfortunately, Christmas and Easter are being twisted into secular holidays. Christmas is becoming a commercial and economic high point of the year. Retailers are pushing the holiday as a time to buy gifts and spend time with the family. A walk through a shopping center will all but diminish any remembrance of the Christ in Christmas or Easter. Candy canes, Santa Claus, winter decorations and of course the Easter bunny all mask the true meaning of the holidays.
It is not always out of ignorance that these things happen. It can be the fear of eternal damnation. Those people who want to control their lives deny God. If God is real, many people realize their eternal future looks bleak. To make their lives less complicated, they disclaim God. They desire only the short-lived temporal benefits of this life. If only these people knew the most important Christmas gift of all. “For God so loved the world He gave his only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).