by Alistair Begg
THE PURPOSE OF CHRIST’S ADVENT
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.1 JOHN 3:4-6 (ESV)
Why do we anticipate Christmas with such relish? For the believer, the answer must surely lie, above all, in the awareness that Jesus Christ appeared to take away our sins.
When we read the Gospel writers, we discover this truth at the very heart of their Christmas message. Matthew recorded the words of the angel to Joseph: “[Mary] will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Ahead of what might be regarded as the first ever Christmas concert, the message the angel gave to the shepherds was similar: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). John began from a different vantage point. As he highlighted the commencement of Jesus’ earthly ministry, having raised our gaze to the eternal Word becoming flesh (John 1:14), he gave us the words of John the Baptist: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (v 29). And Mark records nothing of Jesus’ birth or childhood, but in his Gospel, Jesus’ first words are an announcement that in Him the kingdom of God has come near to people like us (Mark 1:15), and in one of His first miracles, Jesus assures a paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (2:5).
If we say that God has shown His love for us in the incarnation, that is accurate but insufficient. God demonstrated His love for us not simply by sending Jesus as a baby in Bethlehem; rather, His own word tells us that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, emphasis added).
Of course, if we understand that Christ came to take away our sins, then it’s only logical to conclude that we have sins that need to be taken away. Rare is the man or woman who would say that he or she has never done wrong! We all have impure thoughts. We all speak bitter words. We all know what it is to live an unholy life. But the word of God comes to us and says, Here is the good news: Christ appeared in this world to take away your sins.
Today, lay hold of this message with renewed joy and gratitude. Let these eight words be the most precious part of your Christmas season: “He appeared in order to take away sins.” Your friends, coworkers, and neighbors may be more open to the gospel message during the holiday season; make it your aim, then, not to further the misguided perception that Christmas is nothing more than a sentimental emblem of God’s love, as though His Son lay gurgling in the manger but never hung in agony on the cross. God’s love can only be fully explained in the purpose of Christ’s coming: to take away our sins. This, and this above all, is what gives our hearts bountiful cause for celebration!
- How is God calling me to think differently?
- How is God reordering my heart’s affections—what I love?
- What is God calling me to do as I go about my day today?
Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who remains in Him sins continually; no one who sins continually has seen Him or knows Him.1 John 3:4-6
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be pregnant by the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, since he was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had thought this over, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a Son; and you shall name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet would be fulfilled: “Behold, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and they shall name Him Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he named Him Jesus.Matthew 1:18-25