With Christmas just a few short days away, I wanted to share with you something I came across a few days ago that reminded me about the “true meaning” of Christmas. I know, that’s such a cliché saying, and it seems like such an obvious thing, but sometimes it is worthwhile to dig a little deeper into the obviousness of God’s Bible truths.
Most Christians, if asked why they celebrate Christmas would say that they celebrate it as the day of Jesus’ birth, the day the Son of God left his rightful place in Heaven to come as a helpless baby to save the world. And I would say that I agree; that’s the reason that I celebrate Christmas. And most frequently when I think about the Christmas story, I think about the gospel stories of Jesus’ birth, and of his birth being the ultimate gift of Love from God. But a few days ago as I was reading in Genesis for my morning devotions, I came across a story and a verse that I had not previously connected with what I typically consider the “Christmas story.” In fact, the story does not directly connect with the birth of Christ, but the story perhaps lends itself to giving a deeper and more rich meaning to the birth of the Messiah.
I have shared before some of my thoughts on the story of Cain and Abel. But as I was reading it most recently, I came across this verse:
“Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.'” (Genesis 4:13, ESV)
I think when I have read it in the past, I have mostly focused on Cain being afraid of someone killing him to avenge the death of Abel, and I have always kind of thought maybe he wasn’t truly repentant for his crime, just afraid of being unable to bear the consequences of his actions. And maybe that is the truth. However, I think there is more to it.
My Bible gives a note about how the first sentence can be translated. It is often written the way that I have quoted it here, but another translation of the sentence that is given in the ESV is, “Cain said to the Lord, ‘My guilt is greater than I can bear.'” This may seem like semantics, but when I think of the word “punishment” I think of consequences. The word “guilt” however, evokes imagery of sin and its effects rather than simply the consequences of actions, although I think that is part of it too. But when translated as “guilt” instead of “punishment” it seems as if Cain is saying that he is unable to carry the burden of his own sin, his guilt, not just that his punishment seems too harsh.
This is where the true meaning of Christmas comes in: Jesus, the Son of God born as a baby, was sent into the world to bear the guilt that we could not carry on our own. We are, like Cain, unable to carry the weight of our own sin, and God must hide His face from us, unless one could be found who was able to bear the burden for us. And One was found; Jesus, the Lamb of God that was born to take away the sins of the world– your sins, and my sins.
We celebrate Christmas, the birth of the Messiah, because what happier news could there possibly be than the news that God has given his Son as an offering of one who is able and willing to bear our guilt for us that we might live to see the face of God again.
Merry, happy, joyful Christmas to you all.
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV)