We hear the so-called “Christmas story” this time of year in all sorts of places––in churches, on the radio, and from the lips of Linus in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Knowing a story well can make it difficult to hear—not difficult in the sense that we get tired of hearing it (though that can be true), but difficult in the sense that sometimes we only hear what we’re listening for.
For that reason, I’d encourage you to read the Christmas story again, and as you do, listen for what you’ve not really heard before. When I did so, two words jumped out at me––unto you. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11, emphasis added).
At first glance, the wording of this birth announcement seems unusual. Would it not have made better sense for the angels to say, “For Jesus Christ is born this day,” highlighting the fact that the Messiah has come? Or, maybe it would have made better sense to say, “For unto Mary is born this day,” since she did the hard work to get Him here. But that’s not what the angel says. Instead, the angel’s announcement is, “For unto you is born this day . . . ”
That Jesus’ birth is “unto you” indicates that we have a need. We might say that the reason the announcement of Jesus’ birth is “unto you” is because your birth went terribly wrong. My birth went wrong, too. In fact, every birth in human history has gone wrong. David says it best:
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Ps. 51:5)
In hearing that, some of us might be tempted to give David a hug and tell him that he shouldn’t say such nasty things about himself, that he really is a good man. Thankfully, David wouldn’t have listened to us. He knew better.
David wrote Psalm 51 just after he witnessed the birth of his own son, which went terribly wrong. This was not only a medical complication but a spiritual complication. David had committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. The son born from the adulterous relationship died because of David’s sin. David knew the reason his son’s birth went terribly wrong. It was because something terrible had gone wrong at his own birth years earlier.
The spiritual complications didn’t start with David, though. It was part of the spiritual DNA passed down to him from his father, Jesse. But lest we cast a stone at Jesse, it didn’t start with him either. His father, Obed, had the same DNA. But let’s not throw Obed under the bus. He’s from a very long line of humans born who were spiritually dead in sin on arrival, tracing all the way back to Adam in the Garden. Every human that has been born since then has been born into an estate of sin and misery (see Westminster Shorter Catechism 17).
In fact, there has never been a holy, pure, sinless birth in the world until that very first Christmas night in Bethlehem. That night, a birth of a new kind began: the birth of One who is truly God and truly man, a birth that is unto you.
Today, remember afresh, or for the first time, that in love the Father sent Christ to be born “unto you” so that by grace through faith in Him you might be born again. As Charles Wesley wrote in his Christmas hymn:
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.