The angel said, “I bring you tidings of great joy … For to you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is the Christ, the Lord.”
Christmas marks the day when God sent a Savior for me, so that I might have great joy forever. If Christmas merely marked the day when God had published a code of conduct to which I must conform to gain acceptance with him, then Christmas would be a day of anxiety instead of joy. For no matter how zealously I strove to live up to that code, the question would persistently arise, “Have I really met the requirements?” And my answer would always be, “I am not sure.”
Thus fear and concern about myself would prevail in my heart. And, being troubled about myself, there would be little concern left for others and their needs. Even if I did see a way I could help someone, I could do it only halfheartedly, because of the very pressing problem of whether or not I was accepted with God. So anxiety over not being sure that I had fully met God’s requirements would make me less able to love. But the less loving I was, the less chance I would have to be accepted with God. This would lead to more anxiety, and so, to even less love. …
But Christmas makes the day when God sent a Savior for many people, including me. “His name shall be called Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus did more than tell me how I ought to live. As a Savior he accomplished everything necessary for me to be saved. “By Jesus’ obedience the many are made righteous,” says Romans 5:19.
Seeing how Jesus had done everything to save me removes all anxiety about whether I am accepted by God. Thus, when I look to Jesus as my Savior, great joy will necessarily rise in my heart. Then, since such joy means that all my needs are met, I will no longer be concerned about myself, but will be free to give myself single-mindedly to wise ways of helping others.
Indeed, I know that I must love my neighbor as myself in order to inherit eternal life (Luke 10:25-27). But if I try to do this without first having the great joy of the full assurance which Christ gives, I will succeed only in getting into that vicious circle of anxiety, unlove, anxiety … . But when I hear the message that God has sent a Savior for me, great joy necessarily wells up in my heart. This joy draws me out of myself to love my neighbor. So while I know I must love my neighbor to inherit eternal life, I realize that only faith, which cordially acknowledges Christ as my Savior, makes it possible for me to love others. Therefore believing in Christ is all of a piece with loving my neighbor. Both, and never one without the other, lead to eternal life.
Daniel P. Fuller