Yes, it's January as I write this. The tree was just packed away, along with the Advent wreath. Gifts have been unwrapped, hymns have been sung, and what's left of Christmas dinner was packed away into the freezer.
This season I found myself thinking a lot about just how closely tied Easter and Christmas are. There's not one without the other, really; Jesus' death on the cross could only happen if he was human, and he became human the way everyone else does—he was conceived and born (Matthew 1:18), which we celebrated at Christmas.
Erin wrote about the grossness and realness of Jesus being born. If that's not the best way for God to become man, I don't know what is! He sure didn't take the easy way out and just make himself a body out of dirt, like he did Adam (Genesis 2:7). There was no easy way out—literally and figuratively!
He cried (John 11:35). He grew (Luke 2:52). He ate (Mark 11:12). He was tired (John 4:6). He got angry (Matthew 21:12). He was tempted by Satan (Matthew 4:1-11). He went through everything we do as humans, and more—he endured death on the cross only to be glorified the third day on Easter by rising from his tomb.
And we know he was dead, not just pretending or hidden by his disciples—the soldiers pierced his side, the point going to his heart, and out flowed blood and water. We now know was probably blood plus fluid that had collected around his heart, known as pericardial effusion, as a result of going through hypovolemic shock from losing so much blood from the floggings he received previously.
Why is this important?
It would have been too easy for some god to come down, claim to be human, die, then rise again. That wouldn't have been a true fulfillment of the sacrifice needed to rid us of our sins. But “God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16) Pretty awesome stuff—dying for us! Jesus, the human being, God become man, died for us. US.
Somewhere I heard what the statistical chances were of all the foretellings and prophesies in the Old Testament involving Jesus coming true, and it was some outlandishly high, improbable number. None of it could have come true if God did not become man. None of it could have come true if it was just some dude claiming to be this Messiah. And all of it came true because “[Jesus] put on flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).
One of my favorite examples of Jesus' humanity and Godhood in one being appears in Luke 24:41-43:
“And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.”
He had obviously died on the cross; he lay in the tomb for three days; and now here he was, eating fish with his disciples. Spirits don't eat! He was alive again, and he was still very much human.
Christmas inevitably leads to Easter, and Christ's birth as a human is inextricably woven into his godhood—it's kind of like the Trinity, I think, in that we just plain can't understand it, but it is essential to our salvation. But because Jesus was both God and man, we have the hope of salvation in him!