Christ Come to Earth
Contrary to what our culture seems to believe, Christmas is about the coming of Jesus Christ to the earth to save sinners. We, believers, celebrate Christmas because we want to remember the birth of Jesus, who would later suffer and die so that we don’t have to pay the just penalty for our sins. His suffering throughout His life, as well as His death on the cross, all accomplished for us what we could not accomplish for ourselves—salvation and eternal life with God.
So, Christmas is really a celebration of Jesus suffering for us. Now, I know that Easter typically has the corner on that market, but think about it. Jesus began suffering the second He was born. He was born outside, in the cold of the night. Though He Himself did not know it, there were powerful people already scheming to kill Him. He was the son of a poor carpenter, and probably did without many of the things His friends and neighbors had, but He never complained or coveted any of their comforts or material things. I doubt His siblings were very fond of him. After all, being sinless, He never got into trouble and was never punished. They must have been jealous. Yes, from the time He was born, Jesus suffered.
Suffering With Purpose
But Jesus knew all along what the purpose of His suffering was. It was to save sinners. The Bible tells us that our suffering has several purposes, and one of those is so that we can comfort others with the comfort we have received. But how does our suffering translate into helping and comforting others? Well, I believe it translates in the same way that Jesus’ suffering translates into our salvation. It happens by the same mechanism: Obedience to God.
Think about Jesus’ life, and you will understand that it was characterized by 100 percent consistent obedience to God. Even as He suffered physical, mental, and emotional anguish, He never disobeyed God. In the wilderness, after fasting for 40 days and being tempted by the devil? Perfect obedience. In the midst of pleading and rejection? Perfect obedience. In the fear and anguish of anticipating the crucifixion? In abandonment? In betrayal? Even in death, perfect obedience.
He did all this as an example to us so that when we suffer, we have a model for how to remain obedient. I don’t think that it was ever easy for Jesus, and He knows that it is not easy for us, either. But because He came to suffer for our help, we can use our suffering to help others. When we see our trials and pain in this way, then we know that there is a purpose in our suffering, and this can help us to desire to obey more and more. After all, no one wants their suffering to be for nothing. We all want our pain redeemed, and we want to see a purpose in it. But what is the means by which our suffering translates to their benefit?
Obedience With an Eternal Perspective
Again, it is obedience. As we obey Christ even when it’s hard, we learn more and more about who He is, and then we are able to share what we’ve learned to help others. When we can look past our pain to its purpose, just as Jesus did, then we are suffering like Him, and our suffering will mean something because it will help us to fulfill His command to love one another.
Maybe you are suffering even now, at Christmastime. Without an eternal perspective, that suffering can seem unfair or even cruel. But we have this baby in the manger. We have this God of the universe who came down to suffer perfectly for us. We have this compassionate Savior who invites us to follow in His steps and be His disciples. As we become more like Him in our suffering, we help to make that path even clearer for those who are watching us.