As I looked over the sermon notes for the Advent series at our church, I was feeling extremely convicted. I saw an outline for a sermon series that painted a very different picture than the one I so often hear. The amazing thing was that I was simply reading Scripture. This sermon series started with the beginning of the story of Advent: our sin. As I began to recognize and piece together this narrative, I began to see Advent in a different light.
I like Christmas as much as the next guy. Christmas lights are fun. Decorating my home is fun. Gifts are nice. Remember a few years ago when it snowed on Christmas day? That was so fun. Being with my family – oh man. Seeing my family is something special. Being one of five siblings – three of which are married – a gathering of our complete family is becoming increasingly rare. All these things are great. Yet each Christmas time I witness a struggle.
The struggle is between the “Christian” and the “secular,” giving and getting, peace and chaos. It begins with red Starbucks cups. It begins with Black Friday. This year, it began with a political election. Apart from all the division, this struggle has created a strange blend of the two opposing sides. Hallmark plays movies that portray the “true meaning of Christmas” as something that involves a miraculous story, giving something away, and possibly romance. Moms weave together intricate and detailed activities for their kids to fill every day of the Christmas season. It’s slammed into our households and media that the struggle over Christmas is giving versus getting, loving versus hating, and peace versus chaos. We, as Christians, strive to give, to love, and to create peace. However, we view this struggle with an alarming amount of human context and action. We want mankind to exhibit a spirit of giving, love, and create peace. We want man’s wars to cease and we want our love to win among our disagreements.
To an extent, this blend has changed the way Christians view Christmas. I think most of us, including myself, have read and sang the lyrics in Christmas songs, perceiving their lyrics as lofty goals for humanity that anyone can relate to and agree with. For example, when we sing, “peace on earth,” we’re saying that we long for peace on earth between government powers and violent forces. When we sing, “joy to the world,” we’re singing that we want joy to permeate the people of the globe. We want everyone to be happy for Christmas. Hear me; these are not bad things for which to hope. These are among the most noble things we could wish upon humanity.
However, our problem does not rest in humanity’s lack of earthly peace of joy, but in our lack of perspective. The struggle we see every year can be a huge distraction from the greater and truer story. Our lack of perspective has given birth to a holiday season that is saturated in opinions, rather than truth. Christmas cannot be about what we feel or what we think. It must be about what is true, which is always found in Scripture.
Let’s get God’s take on this.
The story begins with our sin. That is, our particular transgressions against the God of the universe. In Genesis 3, mankind stepped into sin. In Genesis 6, God showed us exactly what we all deserve. He flooded the earth and showed the consequence of our sin and wickedness. Yet even then, He was foreshadowing that He would one day take the consequences of our sin (rainbow). God showed favor (grace) to Noah, despite his wickedness, just as He would someday show grace to us. Isaiah 59 shows us how truly terrible we are, harping on our wickedness and the lack of justice on the earth.
And then in Isaiah 59 verse 20:
“And a Redeemer will come to Zion,
To those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the LORD.
Sometime around 3 A.D., that Redeemer did indeed come.
We cannot jump into this story without first understanding why Jesus had to come. If we start the story with, “Jesus was born,” we miss the purpose. Why did Jesus come? Jesus came to die. Why did Jesus come to die?
Jesus came to die to pay the debt of our sin and bring peace between God and mankind.
There it is. The Advent story doesn’t start with a peaceful night and a baby in a manger, but with the chaos of our own sin and iniquity. God’s plan was to break into our chaos and offer peace, love, and hope to the world. Not peace between nations, but between humanity and God. Not a peaceful Christmas night, but peaceful eternity with God. Seeking a spirit of giving, loving, and peacefulness is not wrong. But our quest for these things are in vain unless we find them in Jesus.
As I read Scripture and fleshed out the story of Advent in my heart, it revealed my misconceptions about the purpose of Christmas. God so lovingly convicted me, guided me, and moved me to worship.
I felt a strong pull and leading to write a song that told the entire story of Advent, including the purpose of Jesus’ birth. I sat down at a piano with the aim to create something that sounded reverent to God’s sacrifice on our behalf. God gave me desire to show that yes, we are excited that Jesus came, but we are also moved to worship by beholding the weight of His payment for our sins. When Jesus was a baby lying in a manger, God saw His Son and knew that Jesus would be sacrificed for sin. There’s weightiness to this truth; it brings purpose to Jesus’ birth on earth, allowing us to truly behold the meaning of Advent. From the very beginning of humanity, God sought to face the problem of our sin head-on and bring us back to him by sacrificing His Son on our behalf. Jesus was born to die.
BORN TO DIE
Emmanuel, God is with us (Matthew 1:23)
God is with us, He is here
Emmanuel, God is with us
God is with us, He is here
So I lift my gaze to heaven Christmas Day
To the Son of God on earth to offer grace
The Father knew the price He had to pay (2 Corinthians 5:21)
It was Jesus, Jesus
“Born to Die”
Words by Garrett Chastain