In a sermon preached soon before his death in 1936, J. G. Machen explained how the Bible puts an “enormous emphasis” on the death of Christ. He also noted how the Christian church places a great emphasis on Christ’s death – we “chiefly commemorate” the death of Christ because it is God’s wisdom and our salvation. He continues,
“I do not mean that it is wrong for us to commemorate the birth of Jesus. We have just celebrated Christmas, and it is right for us to do so. Happy at this Christmas season through which we have just passed have been those to whom it has not been just a time of worldly festivity but a time of commemoration of the coming of our blessed Savior into the world. Happy have been those men and women and little children who have heard, underlying all their Christmas joys, and have heard in simple and childlike faith, the sweet story that is told us in Matthew and Luke. Happy have been those celebrants of Christmas to whom the angels have brought again, in the reading of the Word of God, their good tidings of great joy.”
“Yes, I say, thank God for the Christmas season; thank God for the softening it brings to stony hearts; thank God for the recognition that it brings for the little children whom Jesus took into His arms; thank God even for the strange, sweet sadness that it brings to us together with its joys, as we think of the loved ones who are gone. Yes, it is well that we should celebrate the Christmas season, and may God ever give us a childlike heart that we may celebrate it aright” (p. 203).
Machen goes on to note once again that the Bible very much emphasizes Christ’s death, and that we commemorate and celebrate that event not just once a year, but every time we share the Lord’s Table.
“The birth of Jesus was important not in itself but because it made possible His death. Jesus came into this world to die, and it is to His death that the sinner turns when He seeks salvation for his soul” (p. 204).
As the saying goes, the cross follows the cradle. May we rejoice in both this Christmas season.
(This was originally posted in December, 2012)