What is Christmas really about? How might someone respond to that question? We might hear about presents, Santa Claus, family gatherings and traditions, and maybe even Jesus. Ok, so many might know this holiday is uniquely Christian because it celebrates Jesus’ birth, but would they know why He was born? It’s easy to miss the real Jesus during Christmas.

The Christmas accounts in the Gospels are full of wonder and promise: angels announce the Lord’s coming, a heavenly host fills the skies with song, lowly shepherds seek the baby, kings from afar come to worship, all who see Jesus are amazed, and Mary ponders the Lord’s blessing. I find Matthew 1:21 to be one of the more intriguing verses: “She will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

The angel makes very clear to Joseph the identity and purpose of this baby. He is given a name, Jesus, because that identity describes His purpose. The name “Jesus” could also be translated “Joshua,” which means “Yahweh saves.” This was a common name among Jewish boys, but this particular Child was anything but common. He was given this name because of His purpose, His mission: “you will call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

It’s easy to be all mushy gushy at Christmas with the baby Jesus. Christmas is a cultural holiday that nine out of ten Americans celebrate. Americans marvel at a baby in a manager, but we cringe at a Christ on a cross. The idea that Jesus was born to die seems preposterous, yet it is true, biblical Christianity. He came to earth for a purpose, and that was to save His people from their sins. If you find the cross of Christ offensive, then you might as well throw the baby out with the soiled hay.

The salvation given by Jesus gives us great hope, hope for a world yet to come. Many people hurt during this season because they long for the peace, family, light, and trouble-free promises of December but instead they feel the emptiness, coldness, and loneliness that looks more like the dead of February. This can be a time of great sorrow, but Jesus’ mission to save His people from their sins is what gives His people great hope in a world and a kingdom yet to come.

In this season, remember that while Jesus entered this world as a sweet babe crying tears that every baby cries, He came to this earth to scream cries so His people would not have to. He came into this world a beautiful baby with soft and smooth skin and beautiful little hands and feet, only to have that skin torn to shreds and those hands and feet nailed to a cross. This was for His people. While you may feel great sorrow this Christmas, take great hope that you do not have to bear the weight of your sin.

In your Christmas celebrations remember that the baby in the manager is only significant because He fulfills His mission as the Christ on the cross.

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Zac Hess joined the pastoral staff in 2013 after serving as an intern during his seminary studies. He grew up on a farm in Ashland, OH and later met his wife, Sarah, who grew up as part of Grace Polaris Church. Zac pursued biblical studies at both Grace College and Grace Theological Seminary. He loves sports, the outdoors, reading, and a good cup of coffee. Zac and Sarah are the proud parents of Jacob and Caroline.