Long ago and far, far away, there lived a man and a woman named Adam and Eve. While they lived in a place of perfection, we know that they succumbed to temptation and needed to be saved.
Had God allowed them to continue to live in Eden, they could have eaten of the Tree (PS-unlike the picture and the common version of the story, the Bible doesn’t say it was an apple) and continued to live forever in a state that separated them from God. So instead, God kicked them out of the garden and set into motion His plan from the beginning of saving them. Later on down the line, Abraham was born. He was faithful to God (even to the point that he was willing to give up his only son that God had miraculously allowed to be born if that was what God wanted) and God made promises to him. Under this Old Covenant God allowed people’s sins to be forgiven.
In Deuteronomy 30:15-18, Moses is talking to the Israelites, God’s people, and telling them God’s message to them (thousands of years before Jesus died on the cross):
15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess.
Here we see that God is speaking through Moses to the people and he is offering them the choice of life or death if they will choose to obey God’s commands because they love God. In John 14:15, Jesus says
“15 ‘If you love Me, keep[a] My commandments.”
17 But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, 18 I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess.
God is telling them in these verses that if they do not keep His commands they will be punished by death for their disobedience. Even in the midst of this, God continued to show them grace. One way that He did this is by allowing them to have their sins forgiven by sacrificing an animal rather than dying and being forever separated from God in Hell. God still loved them so much that even when they did things wrong, He was still willing to forgive them and have a relationship of peace with them.
Imagine if you lived under this Old Covenant. If you did something wrong, you would buy or bring an animal to sacrifice to the priest. The priest would kill the animal and then you (the guilty person) would put your hands on the animals head symbolizing that the animal was taking the guilt and punishment for you.
You feel free and walk out of the temple glad to be back in a relationship with God and as soon as you walk out into the fresh air, you look over and notice the person you have hated since Torah school and instantly begin hating them in your heart—what God equates with murder. No longer are you free and clear and at peace with God. Or maybe you walk outside and notice another person walking by in that robe that looks so nice and have a lustful thought about them—what God equates with adultery—or you start thinking how nice it would be to have their robe—thoughts of discontentment, coveting, stealing; back to needing forgiveness. The list could go on forever because none of us is able to go very long without forgiveness. How would you feel living under the Old Covenant? Like the burden was too much and you needed a Savior? Someone to come in and save you once and for all?
Hebrews 10:1 summarizes this feeling perfectly:
For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.
While the Old Covenant allowed people to have peace with God, it wasn’t permanent peace and it wasn’t total peace. The blood of animals only was allowed by God to temporarily cover the sin, but it never forgave it. As I stated at the beginning though, God had a plan to forgive the sin and give us perfect peace with Him.
22 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, ‘Take, eat;[a] this is My body.’ 23 Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it.24 And He said to them, ‘This is My blood of the new[b] covenant, which is shed for many. 25 Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’
Here Jesus is talking about His body being broken and His blood being poured out in the sacrifice that He would make on the cross. This sacrifice would be a once and for all, ultimate sacrifice that would permanently forgive sins and make them as if they had never even been committed. This is the New Covenant that we are able to have with God. One in which we ask God to forgive us of our sins and take away our guilt and punishment and instead, we promise Him that we will die to ourselves, our wants, our old way of life, and live for Him instead in new life and in freedom and forgiveness and peace.
So what does this have to do with Christmas? Everything! The more specific answer is found in Luke 2:1-20 where we read about the birth of Jesus:
2 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Here we see the angel announcing that he has good news as there is a Savior being born that will save us from our sins. This is the promised One! This is the One that we have been waiting for since Adam and Eve took that first bite of fruit! We needed this saving because God is holy, just, and perfect and must by definition of just, punish all of our sin completely (if not, He wouldn’t actually be a good, just judge. Think about it: What good judge lets people get away with their crimes and doesn’t assign them a punishment that fits their crime?).
12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” 15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
We truly have reason to praise God! 1 Thessalonians 5:9 says:
9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
God chose to leave Heaven and glory and His rightful place in order to come down to us in the form of a helpless baby born to a poor family so that we could be forgiven of the punishment of death that we deserved for the things that we have done. This baby being born changed history! It proved the fact that God had always meant to redeem us and that He had this all planned out from the beginning.
Jesus being born was truly the Gift that changed everything. It was freedom from our sins and freedom to live a life to the fullest because it is lived to please God. We celebrate Christmas because Jesus came through for us as He had promised, but also because it means that we have forgiveness because not only did He come to live on the earth, but more importantly, to die to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins.
We now have the opportunity to live under the New Covenant where we ask Jesus to come and live inside of our hearts and tell Him that we accept the forgiveness that He paid for on the cross. We no longer have to have the priest as a go-between or the blood of animals to cover our sin until we mess up again. Not only has Jesus already done all this, but He offers Himself as the Gift that can completely change our lives. To make us the people He wants us to be and to take away all of our sin, pain, guilt, burdens and trade us for peace, hope, freedom, and unconditional love even when we continue to fail again. Jesus loves us that much. That is why we celebrate Christmas.
Much of the content of this devotion was taken from https://youthministry360.com/free-stuff/free-christmas-lesson-gift-changed-everything and has been summarized here and combined with my own thoughts in hopes that you will read it and be blessed. J