This is an excerpt from “12 Days of Christmas Carols,” a devotional which unpacks lines of familiar Christmas carols you’ve sung for years but perhaps have never really thought about.
The classic Christmas carol, “What Child Is This” has a verse that is often forgotten. It asks and answers the most important question that could possibly be uttered as one considers the nativity:
Why lies he in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spears, shall pierce him through,
The cross be borne for me and you
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the son of Mary!
Why lies he in such mean estate? Why the manger? Why the lowliness? The shocking, saving answer: Because nails and spears will pierce this Savior through. The meanness of the manger is the message. The pain is the point. This child has come to save us; this baby was born to die.
The book of Hebrews puts it this way:
“Since therefore the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death… For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” –Hebrews 2:14-17 (NIV)
Do you see the connection between Christmas and Good Friday, the incarnation and the crucifixion? “He shared in their humanity so that by his death…” The messiness and pain and blood of the incarnation was the whole point. This Savior had to be fully human, because only a human could bleed for suffer for sins. The Word became flesh because only flesh could have nails driven through.
The reason we need Christmas is not because we need twinkle lights in dark December, or another excuse to get presents, or an opportunity to gather with family. Christmas is not good news because of nostalgia or warm memories or happy celebrations. The reason we need Christmas is because we need Good Friday. The reason Christmas is good news is because this baby was born to die.