By Grant Hawley
Back to the Beginning
To really understand the meaning of Christmas, we have to look beyond the passages about Jesus' birth. The first place we need to look is actually at the very beginning of man. Genesis 1:26-28 says,
Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
Man was created in "[God's] image" but this isn't a perfect translation here. It would be better translated, "Let Us make man, Our image." When Moses was writing, the common practice for kings was to set up an image of themselves in all areas they control, declaring to all who the king of that area is (God said it this way long before, but He knew the significance of it beforehand). Man is God's image, the declaration to all that God is King.
We were to fill the earth and have dominion. We were to rule as God's proxy and to cultivate the earth so that the whole world would be an Eden (compare 1:28 with 2:15) and the goodness of God's kingdom would be declared everywhere.
Well, we messed that up. Satan convinced Eve to take of the forbidden fruit; she gave to Adam who ate with her (Gen 3:1-6), and by this one act of disobedience Satan and the other fallen angels stole man's place as rulers of this world (2 Cor 4:4; Eph 6:12; 1 John 5:19). Only he does not rule as God's proxy, he rules for himself, and men live according to his will (Eph 2:2). And his rule has created the kind of world we see today, with endless wars, genocides, murders, and a widespread agreement that good is evil and evil is good.
A Baby Is Born
Then, a Baby was born. He was not just any baby; He is the eternal Son of God.
God became a man. God became the image of God. And the course was set to restore God's original purpose for mankind, with an added bonus—a great deal of glory for the world.
To understand this, we need to take a look at who this Baby is. In Col 1:15-17, Paul says,
He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
This means that everything that exists, exists because He created it and He maintains its existence. In addition to this, it was made for Him. If this is true, and it is, He is worth far more than the whole world.
But Paul goes on to make another point about this Person. In the next verse, he says, "And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence."
Paul loves to use the phrase, "in Christ." What he means by this, and by the verse above, is that those of us who believe in Jesus actually become part of Him. We become His body. The Bible calls this "the new creation" (2 Cor 5:17 read about it here), and God's "masterpiece" (Eph 2:10). So, Christ made the old creation, the world, humanity, etc. And He made a new creation, His body, the Church. And He is preeminent over both.
We experience great blessing by being in Christ, but there is more to come. In Eph 1:10, Paul tells us what God's plans are with us, "that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times [that means in the Kingdom Christ will rule over after He returns] He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him."
When He returns, Christ, the Man, will rule the world in truth and grace, and He will rule it with His bride as His consort.
Just as God intended from the beginning, man will fill the earth and subdue it as God's proxy, only now, we will be "like Christ" (1 John 3:2), unable to sin and full of lovingkindness, and the Man who sits on the throne will be both Man and God. There will be no hunger, no wars, no sickness, and the whole world will be united in righteousness. The whole world will look upon God's image and say, God is King, and His rule is good.
By this, the angels, even those who chose foolish independence, will know without a doubt that God's wisdom is supreme (Eph 3:10-11).
So, Christmas is a celebration of a birthday, the birthday of the Lord. But it is more than that. It is a celebration of when God became a Man and forever set us back on a course to fulfill our purpose of ruling this world as God's proxy, proving to every being everywhere that God is good.