The best explanation of Christmas that I think I have ever encountered is found (perhaps ironically —or perhaps obviously), in a book written mainly for Jewish audiences. It's a bit long, so I will attempt to summarize; but because my ability to express it as well as the book does is in doubt, I'll include a number of footnotes, which are references to particular sections of the book.
Without Christmas, humanity's hopes are pinned, as any practicing Jew knows very well, to an inherently flawed system1, wherein we (humans) are represented only by sinful men2 who can offer nothing but the blood of animals, which can never take away their sins or ours3. It is ultimately a depressing, futile system, one that makes us acutely aware of how flawed we are but can never actually solve the problem.
Here is the main point, then: it is only because God the Son was made one of us4 that we now, through the miracle of Christmas, have a perfect human representative, one of us who has offered a perfect sacrifice that completely takes away all our sin5, a man who can go to God as our representative and ask for anything for us6, and God will not say no to him.
As Christians we tend to focus on Easter, but while the resurrection is important, it is only really important in the context of Christmas. For God to conquer sin and death is all well and good, but by itself it is unremarkable, since God was sinless and immortal in the first place anyhow. For man to conquer sin and death, that is the real miracle, and it is only possible because God became a man. This is what we celebrate at Christmas.
So now instead of the worthless, flawed, futile system represented by Mount Sinai7, where the law was given that could only reveal our wickedness and so condemn us, we now have God's perfect system, the heavenly Jerusalem8, wherein our Great High Priest has made it possible for God to live among us and be our God and make us his people9. He will take away our wickedness and make us perfect10.
That is Christmas, according to the book of Hebrews.
- #1 - 7:11-19
- #2 - 5:1-4
- #3 - 10:1-4
- #4 - 2:14-17
- #5 - 9:25-28
- #6 - 7:24-28
- #7 - 12:18-21
- #8 - 12:22-24
- #9 - 8:10-12, quoting from Jeremiah 31, and this may be the greatest promise in all scripture; I find it immensely, satisfyingly ironic that so wonderful a promise was given through the infamously depressing
weeping prophet. God's sense of humor is really wonderful.
- #10 - 10:14-18