What Christmas Is All About

Bible Book: Galatians  4 : 4-5
Subject: Christmas

Christmas is a holiday whose original meaning has been buried through the years under layer after layer of traditions, most of which have little or nothing to do with the original intent of the holiday. Have you ever stopped to consider the strangeness of much of what we do in the name of Christmas? We drag trees into our living rooms, and cover them with electric lights and sharp, shiny objects. We hang large socks from the mantle, and then fill them with things we are planning on putting in our mouths. We cook more than we can eat, eat more than we can digest, and all of this after spending more than we can afford on presents that no one remembers two months later. We warn our children to be good, or else the overweight man who is going to break in to our homes, and eat some of our cookies, will not leave them the overpriced toy for which they have begged over the last 10 months.

While I have nothing against all the Christmas traditions, sometimes I groaningly ask myself, “Is this really what Christmas is about?” When we turn to the Word of God, we find that Christmas has less to do with holiday traditions, and more to do with heavenly truth. When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians around 57 AD, he could not imagine anything like the holiday we now call Christmas. However, unwittingly, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in two brief statements, Paul gives us a summary of what Christmas is really all about. In verses 4 and 5, of Galatians 4, we read, “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”

These two verses point us clearly to the true meaning of the Christmas celebration. There are three truths that I want to draw from this text that tell us what Christmas is really all about. First of all, notice that Christmas is really all about:

I. A Sovereign Plan

I was doing some research on the history of Christmas when I came to the website of the History Channel. In an article about the ancient roots of Christmas, the opening paragraph said this: “Centuries before the arrival of the man called Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter.”i Though the article was yet another attempt to separate Christ from Christmas, there is some truth to the fact that Christmas existed before the Bethlehem birth.

In our text, the Apostle Paul indicates that Christmas was part of God’s sovereign plan long before Mary felt her first contraction. Paul says in verse 4, “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son…” I want us to consider that phrase for a moment, and notice a couple of things about God’s sovereign plan. Notice first of all that in the birth of Christ, we see:

A. The Will of God Ruling in History

Look again at verse 4, and notice that phrase, “…when the fullness of the time had come…” Literally, it means, “When the time had been filled up…”

The indication is that in eternity past, in the blackness of pre-creation space, when there was nothing and no one but God, the Almighty had planned that on a particular night, after thousands of years of human history, His Son would be born into this world.

So many times people view God as if He is up in heaven reacting to the events that unfold down on the earth. Nothing could be farther from the truth. God does not respond to history; He writes it. As someone has well said, History is, after all, His story. Before the first man was formed from the dust of the ground, God knew that one day He would send forth His only Son in the form of a man. He set the date of the first Christmas before the first day of history, and when time had filled up to that date, Jesus our Savior was born.

When we read verse 4 and we consider the sovereign plan of God in the birth of Jesus, we see not only the will of God ruling in history, but we see also further:

B. The Wisdom of God Revealed in History

Look again at that phrase in verse 4. Paul writes and says, “But when the fullness of the time was come…” The phrase reveals that the moment of Christ’s birth was exactly the right time for such a momentous event to occur.

As one writer put it, “The first Christmas was perfectly timed.”ii In other words, the world was perfectly primed for the advent of the Savior, and the expansion of the gospel.

Politically, Rome’s rule had united much of the world, and connected it through a complex and developed system of roads – the very roads the apostles would take as they preached the gospel throughout the empire.

Culturally, the world was closer than ever before, thanks to the exploits of Alexander the Great, who had infused the world he conquered with Greek culture, and more importantly, the Greek language – the language in which the New Testament would be written.

Spiritually, the Jewish people, though under Roman rule, were back in Jerusalem, and were allowed to worship the one true God. This had brought about a sort of revival, and an expectation of the Messiah.

Looking back at the time and the place of Christ’s birth, we can see the providence and wisdom of God’s plan. The early church was able to grow explosively due to the culture and time in which it originated.

The website of a newspaper from England had an article this week talking about the U.S. economic situation, and how the federal government is working to deal with the crisis. The title of the article jumped out at me. The headline read, “Desperate Times: How the Fed Plans to Save the World.”iii No matter what their plan, I am absolutely convinced that the federal government cannot save the world. However, in eternity past, the sovereign God of the universe did have a plan to save the world. That plan is the reason we celebrate Christmas.

Notice something else we draw from this text about the true meaning of Christmas. Notice not only that Christmas is really about a sovereign plan, but notice also secondly that it’s all about:

II. A Supernatural Process

Look again at our text. In Galatians 4:4, Paul says, “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,”

Notice that phrase, “…made of a woman, made under the law…” In that statement we are reminded that the true meaning of Christmas centers on a miraculous, supernatural event – the birth of the Son of God.

Trillions of births have taken place on this planet, and yet there has never been another birth before or since like the birth of Jesus. It can only be explained as a supernatural event.

Notice a couple of things about the birth of Jesus that make it a supernatural process. It is a supernatural process because of:

A. Who It Involves

Paul said that, “…God sent forth his son…” The phrase literally means that God sent out, from Himself, His Son. Christmas is about the birth of the Son of God!

That infant, birthed in a stable, wrapped in peasant rags, and cradled in a feeding troth was not the son of the wide-eyed carpenter looking on in awe. He was the Son of the Highest, the offspring of the Almighty – God in the flesh!

Theologians call it the incarnation. It is the miracle of God becoming a man; the Creator taking on the body of one of His creatures. There is no other way to explain that apart from a supernatural event.

No wonder the angels sang His praises! No wonder the star spotlighted His birthplace! This was the Logos, of which John would later write. The Word had been made flesh!

In 1739, Charles Wesley penned the Christmas hymn, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. It has stood the test of time, and unlike so many Christmas jingles, it is full of sound theology. The second verse says:

“Christ, by highest heav’n adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold He come,
Offspring of the virgin’s womb:
Veiled in flesh the God-head see,
Hail, incarnate deity,
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, or Emmanuel”

The Christmas story is the story of miracle because of who it involves! Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Son of God! It is the story of the supernatural process of God coming into the world. Christmas is about a supernatural process, not only because of who it involves, but notice also further because of:

B. What It Involves

Look again at verse 4. It says, “…God sent forth his Son, made of a woman…” Look carefully at those words, “…made of a woman…” Do they not remind us of the supernatural method of Christ’s birth?

Though many would scoff at the notion, the Bible tells us that Jesus was born to a virgin mother. According to the Scriptures, Jesus was not conceived through normal human means, but by the Holy Ghost.

Down through the centuries, men have ridiculed, criticized, and undermined the doctrine of the virgin birth. On the grounds of impracticality and impossibility, they have dismissed it as lore and legend.

Those who would question the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, however, would do well to hear what the angel said about it in Luke chapter 1. There in verse 37, the angel said to Mary, “For with God, nothing shall be impossible.” There is no explanation for the virgin birth of Jesus Christ apart from a divine miracle. We as believers do not try to offer some physiological explanation for it. It is scientifically impossible, but is scripturally indisputable. The Word of God says that a miracle – a supernatural process – took place inside the virgin womb of a young Jewish girl some 2,000 years ago. Christmas is really all about a miracle!

The enlightened mind of my eight year-old son is starting to question the reality of a certain Christmas legend involving a man who lives and works at the North Pole. It seems that Tanner is struggling in his mind to work out the logistics of how one man could visit nearly every kid in the world in one night. He knows that there has to be some magic, or a miracle involved for that to take place, and he is starting to wonder.

There is in fact a Christmas miracle, but it has nothing to do with a red-clad home invader. The miracle is that a virgin conceived a son – and not just any son, the Son of God. That is what Christmas is really about.

Notice one more truth we find in this text with regard to the real meaning of Christmas. Notice not only that Christmas is about a sovereign plan, and a supernatural process, but notice also thirdly and finally that Christmas is really about:

III. A Saving Purpose

Look again in Galatians chapter 4, and notice verse 5. Paul says that God sent forth His Son, “To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”

The celebration of Christmas is not just about what God did. It is also about why He did it. In verse 5, Paul reminds us of the saving purpose behind Christ’s coming to this earth.

Notice a couple of things that make up the purpose of God in sending His Son. Notice first of all, Jesus was born into this world:

A. For the Redemption of Sinners

There is a very important word that you ought to mark in your Bibles. It is the word “redeem” that we find in verse 5. It is translated from a compound of two Greek words, and it simply means “to buy back”. However, there is more to this word than just the idea of purchasing something. The Greek word used here refers to an ancient practice.

In the days of the Roman Empire, slavery was legal and common. This word that is translated “redeem” in verse 5 is a word that would have been used in the slave market. When a person went into the slave market and bought a slave for the purpose of setting them free, they were said to have “redeemed” that slave.

Now couple that with what Paul says in verse 5. God sent His Son into this world to buy us out of the slave market, and set us free from our bondage.

When the angel said that Jesus would “save His people from their sins (Mt. 1:21),” he was referring to the work of redemption. Jesus came to this earth for the purpose of redeeming sinners.

An article last week in The Boston Globe, reported that the majority of Americans are spending less this Christmas than in the past few years. In the article, Marilyn Lucas, a café owner said, “Christmas is going to be very small. I don’t have the money this year.” Regardless of how much is spent this Christmas, there has never been more spent, or a more costly gift given than on the very first Christmas. In sending Jesus to pay for our sins, God the Father gave the greatest and most expensive of all gifts.

Christmas is ultimately about the redemption of sinners. Notice also further that the saving purpose of Christmas in not only the redemption of sinners, but it is also:

B. The Adoption of Sons

Look again at verse 5. Paul says that Christ was sent to this earth, “To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Notice carefully that last phrase, “…that we might receive the adoption of sons.” There is an interesting truth revealed in these two verses.

Listen to two statements taken from verse 4 and 5. “God sent forth his Son…that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Consider that. God gave up His only Son so that He could adopt a multitude of sons.

I am reminded of what the letter of Hebrews says in chapter 2 and verse 10. It says that through His death, Jesus was able to bring “many sons unto glory”. Jesus said that in His father’s house, the one from which He came, there were many mansions. Though God had only one begotten son, He has prepared a place for millions and millions of adopted sons.

Christmas is about the birth of one Son and the adoption of many sons! That little baby in the manger is the “firstborn among many brethren” – all of them adopted because of His sacrifice!

On my birthday in 1955, a great Canadian pastor named, T.T. Shields went home to be with the Lord. I was reading a sermon of his this week on this very text. One line just ministered to my heart. Shields said, “Someday we are going Home for Christmas.”

There is coming a day when all of the redeemed and adopted children of God are going to be home for Christmas. It is all because, “…God sent forth his Son…that we might receive the adoption of sons.”


I read a tragic story once about a wealthy family in Boston who hosted a Christening party for the newborn baby. They invited all of their family and friends to their large home for the celebration. When it came time to bring out the baby, the mother made a horrifying discovery. The bed on which the baby had been sleeping was piled high with the coats of the guests. The infant was smothered to death by the weight of all the garments.

Christmas is supposed to a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. However, I fear that too often we have smothered Him out with all of the trappings and traditions of the modern Christmas.

It is good to be reminded that Christmas is not about trees and presents. It is about the plan of God to miraculously send His Son to this earth to redeem us from our sins and adopt us into His family. That is what Christmas is really about!

i Christmas: An Ancient Holiday, History.com, accessed 12/18/08, http://www.history.com/minisites/christmas/viewPage?pageId=1252
ii MacArthur, John, God With Us: The Miracle of Christmas, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1989), p. 98
iii Elliot, Larry, Desperate Times: How the Fed Plans to Save the World, 12/18/08, Guardian.co.uk, accessed 12/18/08, http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/dec/18/federal-reserve-measures- ben-bernnake
iv English, Bella, Downsizing Christmas, 12/ 13/08, Globe.com, accessed 12/18/08, http://www.boston.com/business/personalfinance/articles/2008/12/13/downsizing_christmas/
v Shields, T.T., Great Preaching on Christmas, (Sword of the Lord Publishers, Murfreesboro, TN, 1988), p. 153