But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman…(Galatians 4:4, NKJV)
One day while contemplating love, the thought occurred to me: What is the nature of love?
My background in psychology teaches me that love is explained in terms of biology and psychology.
Love also is expressed culturally and spiritually. With all my knowledge concerning love, I still felt I needed more, which brings me to the story of Christmas. From a child, I always loved this story of ultimate, unconditional, and altruistic love.
However, a couple of questions came up in my church that prompted the earlier meditation of love.
Why do we need Christmas? Why did Jesus have to be born?
I decided to take a journey to discover the answers.
Let’s start at the beginning of the Christmas story.
A little political and religious background is needed to put it in perspective. The year of Jesus’ birth (c. 4 B.C.) marked the death of Herod the Great, and the end of a grip of terror he held over the country of Judea. The political unrest that followed saw warring factions vying for power, which prompted Rome to send P. Quinctilius Varus to stabilize the country in Rome’s favor.
This incursion resulted in massacres and mass crucifixions numbering in the thousands. Besides, the priesthood of the Temple in Jerusalem was notorious for being corrupt, brutal, and greedy. The Bible, Talmudic texts, and the Jewish historian, Josephus (c. 94 A.D.), support the accounts of egregious acts and corruption against the populace.
Enter a teenaged Jewish girl named Mary, pledged to be wed to Joseph of the tribe of Judah. Mary conceives of the Holy Spirit while a virgin and becomes pregnant before her marriage to Joseph. This puts her at risk of stoning according to Jewish law.
Joseph considers all these events and wishes to put her away privately. However, an angel of the Lord comes to him in a dream and tells him to take Mary as his wife in fulfillment of Scripture in Matthew 1:18–25:
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ[a] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed[b] to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
Therefore, the set time had come.
The political climate and the precise dates of the coming of the Messiah were at hand. Daniel 9:26 gives the time of the Messiah — 69 (62+7) weeks or sabbatical years (7-year periods) after the proclamation of Artaxerxes Longimanus (ruler of Persia) for the Jews to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. Then, on Passover, the Messiah would be cut off.
According to history, Artaxerxes Longimanus ascended to the throne of the Medo-Persian empire around July of 465 B.C. Sometime later, he issued the decree on Passover for the Jews to return home to Jerusalem to rebuild their city.
This resulted in the exact timing of the coming of Jesus: 69 weeks of years = 476 years, or 173,880 days. The Jews were looking for their Messiah. God was on the move, and the time was right.
God needed Christmas to demonstrate and document His love for us.
Back to my theories on love.
According to psychologist Eric Fromm in his classic work, The Art of Loving, love is not merely a feeling; it involves action. I remember the powerful effect this book had on my understanding of types of love when I was in college.
Love is also personal. I think the consensus is love is part of an interpersonal relationship with another person. Therefore, relation + action = love. We need not only feel love; we need to see it in action.
Love has to be shown to be known.
Let's take this journey a step further.
We might ask: Why did Jesus have to be born? The answer is simple: He had to come as a baby. If He had appeared as a man, who would have believed Him and His message? How could He relate to us as full human beings, if he had not come as a baby through the womb of a virgin fulfilling the verse:
Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14, NIV)
Anything less than birth would be considered unredeemable. The purpose of His birth and subsequent death was to redeem humanity from sin. We are repurchased and can approach the Father once again.
The Jews were expecting the Messiah to be born soon. You see, Jesus’ birth was the fulfillment of a prediction that occurred time and time again throughout the Bible. For example:
For to us, a child is born, to us, a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6, NIV)
Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. (Philippians 2:7, NLT)
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John1:14, NIV)
Love was about to unfold.
Why did Jesus have to be born? Romans 5:8 tells us He came to die, so we can live again. That is why we need Christmas because He wants and loves us.