A young grade-schooler came home recently with a packet of “Holidays Around the World.” In it, religious holidays were described only according to the ways they’re celebrated. Hanukkah was described as eight days when people light candles. Christmas is a day when Santa Claus comes to deliver presents to children and people decorate with Christmas trees and lights on their houses.
Describing Christmas by pointing to Christmas trees and Santa Claus is like describing Independence Day by talking about fireworks and Uncle Sam.
The gospel is at the heart of Christmas: the gift of salvation through the life and work of Jesus Christ. But why did Jesus need to be fully man and fully God? As St. Anselm asked, “Why the God-Man?“
The tightest and most concise answer I have found comes from Athanasius, an Egyptian bishop from the 3rd Century.
“If Jesus Christ the incarnate Son is not true God from true God, then we are not saved, for it is only God who can save; but if Jesus Christ is not truly man,
then salvation does not touch our human existence and condition.”
If Jesus was a man but not God, then he could represent sinful humanity but his death wouldn’t have been sufficient to be a “once for all” atonement for sin (Hebrews 10:11-14).
If Jesus was God but not fully human then how would he be a “second Adam,” who reconciles man with God and makes adoption possible?
Christmas marks Gods invasion of creation in order to rescue, redeem, and restore the Kingdom of God. Indeed, he did not come to “bring in” the Kingdom of God as much as he came to “kick out” the false kingdom of Satan who has brought sin and death since that fateful day described in Genesis 3.
Jesus is the “God-man” who came as conquering king, rescuer, healer, and teacher… and he came as a baby boy to a poor family.