Christmas Happened Because It Is Fitting

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Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Jesus Christ existed before he was conceived in Mary’s womb. You and I did not exist before conception.

So when we speak of our coming into the world, or speak of John the Baptist’s being “sent from God” (John 1:6), we don’t mean that he, or we, existed before we were sent. We mean our being sent was our coming into being. Not so with Jesus.

He said, “I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father” (John 16:28). The Son of God chose to be conceived in Mary’s womb. Neither you nor I chose to be born as a human. He did.

“Though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6–7). As God, he considered what he would do. Upon consideration, he “counted” his equality with God something he would not grasp so tightly as to let it hinder his incarnation. He “took” the form of a slave.

Why God Wrote the Christmas Story

Piper: “God wrote the story of the universe—and of Christmas— to reveal the fullness of who he is.”

All of this cries out: Why? God could have created and run the universe differently. Why did it happen like this?

One of the deepest biblical answers is that it was “fitting.” I say this is one of the deepest answers, because there is no reality above or outside God that he must “fit” into in order to do right. God himself is the measure of all that is right and good and true and beautiful. So to say his ways are “fitting” means they fit with himself. They are congruent, or consistent, or harmonious with all that he is.

Hebrews 2:10 says that, in founding our faith through Christ’s sufferings, God acted fittingly. “It was fitting that he . . . should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.” Christ became the perfect Savior through suffering. It was fitting that he do so.

This is no small thing. For an all-wise, all-powerful God to see something as supremely fitting is to see it as a supreme obligation. For God would never do anything that is not fitting, nor forget to do anything that was.

This explains the shocking words seven verses later: “Therefore, Christ had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest” (Hebrews 2:17). Had to? Yes. We could translate: “Hence he is obliged” (hothen ōpheilen). Not obliged to anything outside God. He is obliged by the divine wisdom in seeing what is “fitting.” God “has to” do what is fitting. Not as man reckons, but as God himself reckons.

How is Christmas Fitting?

Sandwiched between Hebrews 2:10 and 2:17 — between the declaration that Christ suffered because it was fitting, and Christ became like us because he was thus obliged to — is the great description of why Christ became human. Hence this is part of the picture of how the incarnation was fitting. Each line of Hebrews 2:14–15 is a different reason for the incarnation — for Christmas.

14a Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, 14b that through death 14c he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14–15).

First, he became human because we are human. God’s great aim is to have a family of human children in which his eternal Son is one of them, yet supreme over them:

  • “Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29)
  • “He had to be made like his brothers in every respect.” (Hebrews 2:17)
  • “That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers.” (Hebrews 2:11)

This is fitting — seemly, congruent, beautiful — in God’s eyes.

Second, he became human so that he might die. “He partook of flesh and blood that through death . . .” God, by his very nature, cannot die. But the God-Man, Jesus Christ, could die. Dying was fitting. Therefore, he became human — mortal.

Third, he became human “that (by dying) he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” Not to put the devil out of existence, but to abrogate his ability to make death damning. The devil damns with one weapon: unforgiven sin. If he can accuse us in God’s court successfully and get a guilty verdict, we are damned.

But in the death of Christ, God “cancelled the record of debt that stood against us . . . nailing it to the cross. He thus disarmed the rulers and authorities” — that is, the devil (Colossians 2:14–15). He was disarmed in that the weapon of successful accusation was taken out of his hand. It was gloriously fitting, that he be destroyed in this way.

Hence, the fourth reason the Son of God became human was to “deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” Now, when believers look into the dark face of death, they say, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). No more fear. No more bondage. Now. Or ever. Such a life is fearless life fitting for the saints.

Seeing What Is Seemly

When God pondered how to write the story of the universe, there was nothing outside of himself to guide him. He made his choices according to how all things “fit” into a design that would best reveal his fullness. He himself, and nothing else, established what is fitting — seemly, congruent, beautiful.

Our aim should be to see the fitness of all God’s ways, and approve, and rejoice, and conform. To be sure, for now “we see in a mirror dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). “We know in part” (1 Corinthians 13:9). But God has not left us to mere imaginings. “In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:2). And the Son has sent the Spirit (John 15:26). And the Spirit has given the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:21). And the church is given teachers (Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 3:2).

Christmas happened because it was fitting. Now we get to spend eternity growing in our ability to see what God sees. The more you have the mind of Christ, the more you see the beauty of it all. Make this your aim in the new year — by every means possible, to see the seemliness of God’s way of salvation, and rejoice — and reflect.

John Piper produced a lab to accompany this article called, “Why Christmas?” There he digs even deeper into the words of Hebrews 2:14–15 to fuel your celebration of the birth of Christ.