18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:18-21 ESV
The birth of Jesus and the death of Jesus were never meant to be separated. The incarnation was simply God setting the stage for the crucifixion. The manger only exists as a prelude to the cross. Jesus was born so that at the proper time he could die.
At the time of Jesus’ birth, the nation of Israel was asking God for salvation. For them, salvation meant liberation from the oppressive rule of the Romans. In order to receive this salvation they needed a savior. The savior they asked for was a warrior dressed for battle, but the savior they received was a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. They wanted the fierce lion, but what they needed was the sacrificial lamb.
We must remember that God is always far more interested in meeting our needs than he is in meeting our wants. In fact, you could even go so far as to say that meeting the needs of his children is one of God’s greatest desires.
One way to describe sanctification is as the process of aligning our desires with God’s desires. Scripture tells us that as we mature we should begin to want what God wants more and more.
If God wants what we need then we too should want what we need. One sign of maturity is an acquired taste for healthy things.
Why were the requests of the Jews for salvation so far off from God’s plan? Because they did not recognize their truest need.
Are the people of God any different today? We all want salvation from something, but is that something the same thing that Jesus came to save us from? Jesus didn’t come to save us from the corruption of our government or the collapse of our economy. He didn’t come to save us from our singleness or our controlling spouse. He came to save us from eternal judgment by dying for our sins. Our greatest need is forgiveness for our sins, redemption from our failures, and reconciliation with our God. Our greatest need is peace, comfort, and joy. Our greatest need is Jesus.
This isn’t to say that Jesus is never willing to change any of our circumstances. However, sometimes he chooses not to intervene (for a season or indefinitely) because he often uses our smaller practical needs to drive us towards our deepest spiritual need – himself.
Christmas is about recognizing and remembering Jesus as our greatest need, and asking him to continue transforming our hearts until he also becomes our greatest desire.
The celebration of Christmas is the remembrance of a Father who intimately knows the deepest need of his children and is willing to stop at nothing to provide for them, even at great cost to himself.