Whether it's a book, a movie, or in the case of Christmas presents for little kids in the house, an instruction manual--we all are tempted to do the same thing: skip to the end. But when we give in to that ever-present temptation to cheat, it's never as satisfying as when we'd invested the time and arrived at the end the way in which we were intended. Not only do we rob its creator of the time and effort they put into producing the work, but we rob ourselves of the journey. For books and movies, that means we know the story, and all (or most of) our questions are answered. For instruction manuals, it means we have a toy that's properly built, works, and with minimal frustration, Daddy can get in bed at a decent hour on Christmas Eve.
But every Christmas--a holiday dedicated to the incarnation of God, the Word becoming flesh, the birth of the God-man--we do it. We skip straight to the end. We cheat. We rob God of the story he cared so much to write. And we rob ourselves of having our questions answered because we know the whole story. Maybe you've said it. I've probably said it.
"Jesus came to die." Well, yes and no.
It's become an incredible pet peeve of mine during the Christmas holidays. Here is a holiday dedicated to celebrating the birth of Christ. His birth, the beginning of his earthly life. And we barely have him out of his swaddling cloths before we're talking about his death. Did Jesus come to die? Yes, but what an incomplete statement! Had he only come to die, why not show up on Good Friday, get on the cross, and get on with it? Because he also came to live!
There is no separating Jesus's perfectly obedient life from his sacrificial death. Had Jesus not lived a perfect life, obeying God down to every jot and tittle of the Law, he could not have died a death that would satisfy God's demand for holiness. In other words, Jesus came to live without sin, so that his death would achieve all that it's intended to--salvation, but also righteousness. The apostle Paul says it this way, "Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous." (Romans 5.18-19)
So this Christmas don't cheat yourself out of the rest of the story; without the middle part the ending doesn't make sense. Don't pass over the manger to get right to the cross. Stop and appreciate the miracle of incarnation. Wonder over what it means for the Word to become flesh. Read Luke 2.1-21, and reflect on the Christ child who was born, who would grow up, be tempted, get hungry, cry, laugh, hurt, and live--but live without sin. This Christmas celebrate Jesus's life and his active obedience. Jesus came to live; he came to obtain a righteousness that could be imputed to us when we had only sin to impute to him. (2 Corinthians 5.21)
So this Christmas don't skip straight to Good Friday. Celebrate his birth, life, and obedience on our behalf. Stop and celebrate Christmas!