Christmas and the Cross
The message of Christmas is not separated from the message of the cross of Jesus. The Christ child who was born in a humble stable is the same Christ who grew up and suffered throughout His life, especially toward the end, even died for the sin of God's people at Calvary's tree.
The coming of the Christ has been foretold by the patriarchs and the prophets of old. His advent is for the deliverance of God's people and the defeat of God's enemies, all for the glory of God.
However, the victory and vindication of God came at a great cost. It costs the humiliation, suffering, and death of the Son of God in our place and for our sake, and ultimately for God's exaltation. But Jesus did not do it grudgingly. No. The only begotten Son of God willingly and selflessly left His glorious place and gave up Himself for the good of His people and for the glory of His Father.
Dr. J. I. Packer put Christ's humiliation and suffering beautifully when he wrote, "We see now what it meant for the Son of God to empty himself and become poor. It meant a laying aside of glory (the real kenosis); a voluntary restraint of power; an acceptance of hardship, isolation, ill-treatment, malice and misunderstanding; finally, a death that involved such agony - spiritual even more than physical - that his mind nearly broke under the prospect of it..."
He then added, "It meant love to the uttermost for unlovely human beings, that they through his poverty might become rich. The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity - hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory - because at the Father's will Jesus Christ became poor and was born in a stable so that thirty years later he might hang on a cross. It is the most wonderful message that the world has ever heard, or will hear" (J. I. Packer, "Knowing God" [IVP, 1993], 63).
This understanding of the message and spirit of Christmas has tremendous implications in our lives as followers of Christ. Dr. Packer gave one challenging application. He said, "We talk glibly of the 'Christmas spirit,' rarely meaning more by this than sentimental jollity on a family basis. But what we have said makes it clear that the phrase should in fact carry a tremendous weight of meaning. It ought to mean the reproducing in human lives of the temper of him who for our sakes became poor at the first Christmas. And the Christmas spirit itself ought to be the mark of every Christian all the year round" (ibid.).