Who can tell us what Christmas is all about? Today on the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, we find someone who knows what Christmas is all about: an angel whose priceless words are recorded for us in the Bible in Luke 1:26–38. On Christmas day in 2005 at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, John Piper preached a sermon on this text. He titled it “The Child to Be Born Will Be Called Holy — the Son of God.” Here’s a clip of what he said:
“In the sixth month [that is, the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John the Baptist] the angel Gabriel was sent from God” (Luke 1:26).
No True Christmas Without God
I think that’s the most fundamental thing you can say about the meaning of Christmas: it originates with God, it starts with God, it has to do with God. God sent this angel. God got this thing started. There is a meaning of Christmas without God. There is no biblical meaning of Christmas without God, and there’s no historical meaning of Christmas without God. But there’s an American meaning of Christmas without God, and there’s a European meaning of Christmas without God. I got an email this week. They informed me that there’s a Buddhist meaning of Christmas in Bangkok with all the frills — minus God. That’s a remarkable thing, but there is no biblical, true, historical meaning of Christmas without God.
“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God.” Christmas is about the Creator of the universe who is not part of the universe. We’re not pantheists. It’s about the Creator of the universe, distinct from his creation, creating what is not he, and then penetrating to become part of it without ceasing to be the uncreated, non-part-of-it that he is. That’s Christmas.
You remember how God identified himself — named himself — in Exodus 3:12–14 when he sent Moses to deliver his people, and Moses said, “They’re gonna ask me who did this.” And he said, “You tell them I Am Who I Am sent you.” What does that mean? It means that God is absolute reality. He doesn’t come into existence. He doesn’t become what he’s not. He doesn’t get better today than he was yesterday. There is zero development in the divine being. He simply is — before you were, or I was, before galaxies were, before anything that could cause the Big Bang was, he was, is, will be: no beginning, no ending, no development, no becoming — absolute, non-created reality.
When God Entered the Universe
And then he created what is not God: a universe. And on Christmas, he entered it. This universe — the moral part of it, the personal part of it — is in rebellion against the King. We’re in rebellion against God. So when he’s coming, he’s not just coming to hang out. There’s a problem he’s coming to deal with, and we’re it. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16–17). That’s why he’s coming.
I think God would say to me what he said to Paul in 2 Corinthians 5: “You’re my ambassador this morning. This is the day of salvation. Go, say in my name, ‘There is an amnesty. It is still in force. And the amnesty is this: Lay down your sword, lay down your weaponry of rebellion against me. Just drop it in your heart right now; just drop it, and then kneel or fall or lie down like a little baby, and receive my forgiveness for all the rebellion against my kingship — it’s free. I paid for it with my Son’s blood — and then swear allegiance to me as king. And if you will, you will be a child of God, and you will live forever, and there will be a wall of fire around you called God. And in the midst will be the glory. And you will enjoy the revelation of God forever and ever and ever. And death will be a portal into paradise.’”