“Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’ ”” (Hebrews 10:5–7, ESV)
Jesus was born into obscurity.
There’s little doubt that Bethlehem was a one-horse town in the middle of nowhere. A manger is not exactly a crib fit for a king. And shepherds are not what you’d call storybook subjects of royalty.
Yet that is exactly the context of the birth narrative, the first Christmas.
If you’ve done any careful study of the incarnation though, you already know that this obscurity is quite the point.
Jesus was born into humility.
He did not come as royalty. He came as an impoverished child of a carpenter and his very young wife. (Mary may have been as young as 13 years old). Jesus was born in a nasty feeding trough and was worshiped by the lowest people in that particular society.
If you had told anyone in Bethlehem that that little baby was the King of kings, their response would’ve been one of my children’s favorite, “whatever”.
Jesus was born into obscurity, but he didn’t intend to remain there.
The clock has been running forward for about 2000 years, but at the time of Jesus’ birth it was not. When Jesus was born, even though he in his humanness was not yet aware, the clock was running at T minus 33 years and counting. Jesus had 33 years to move from obscurity and humility to exaltation.
As Jesus matured, he began to understand the immediacy and imminence of his destiny. Christmas was T minus 33 years and counting. The birth of Christ was not his resting place. Jesus never intended for us to remember him as merely a little baby. And if you celebrate Christmas, you should have no intention on stopping with the story of the incarnation.
In the movie Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Ricky prays this prayer… “Dear Lord baby Jesus, lyin’ there in your ghost manger, just lookin’ at your Baby Einstein developmental videos, learnin’ ’bout shapes and colors. I would like to thank you for bringin’ me and my mama together, and also that my kids no longer sound like retarded gang-bangers.”
I’m afraid, as ridiculous as this sounds, it’s a pretty fair representation of what many people think about Jesus. As apologists, our job is not merely to defend the existence of God, the reliability of the New Testament, or the Resurrection of Christ. We are first called to defend against false teaching, and the American baby Jesus is one example of some very misleading presumptions. That is, Jesus was merely a baby of hope for the downtrodden, overlooked, and unloved; who was born into poor circumstances.
This is not the real Jesus!
The real Jesus is God who became man, and that is only the beginning of the story. One job of the apologist is to make sure to tell, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story and to make clear that the birth of Jesus, as wonderful as it was, started the countdown clock-T minus 33 years and counting.
T minus 33 years and counting to what?
This baby had 33 years to fill a big order, one that was in the plans since before time itself. Jesus was born as a man for a reason, to complete the covenants God had made. He had 33 years to complete God’s Covenant of Work, which Adam failed and we continue to prove our inadequacy. He also had 33 years to fulfill God’s Covenant of Grace, purchasing the pardon of God’s children.
Let’s take a very quick overview of what Jesus had to accomplish in just 33 years.
T minus 33 years and counting for…
Jesus to perfectly obey and fulfill God’s law.
Actually, the short life of Jesus seems like a benefit here, doesn’t it? Being perfectly obedient to the Law of God would be easier for 33 years than the usual 70 wouldn’t it?
First of all, for most of us 33 seconds of obedience is virtually impossible. For the rest of us, there’s not been 33 minutes when we haven’t entertained an evil thought or had a bad intention.
Secondly, Jesus was not merely passively obedient to the law. Jesus actively engaged the Law of God in such a way that he fulfilled it, even in his summary of it-to love the Lord with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus did that perfectly, without exception.
Jesus to become the righteousness we cannot.
Jesus had 33 years not only to fulfill the law, but he had to become the Righteous One. We think of Jesus as our substitute, only giving himself on the cross to buy our forgiveness, but forgiveness is not enough. To be in the presence of God, perfect righteousness is required, something we woefully lack. Jesus earned that for us in 33 years and it is a necessary element of our salvation.
Jesus to get ready to die.
Have you ever considered what it’d be like if you knew when you were going to die. How tempting it would be to eat, drink, and be merry until a few days or weeks before. Jesus may not have known the exact time of his death as a man, but he knew of its necessity and its imminence. This pressed upon him an urgency that is obvious in the Gospels. Jesus had 33 years to live, but he also had 33 years to prepare to die, not for him but for us.
Here his infinite love towards us appears; but its overflowing appears in this—that he put on our nature that he might thus make himself capable of dying, for as God he could not undergo death-Calvin
There are many other things impending in this countdown.
Jesus had to fulfill all of the Old Testament prophecies about him.
Jesus had to crush the heel of the Serpent.
he hath so delivered us from the tyranny of the devil, that we are rendered safe, and that he hath so redeemed us from death, that it is no longer to be dreaded-Calvin
Jesus had to become the true and better King.
Jesus had to become the greatest Prophet of Israel.
The list could go on for another page.
Point to Jesus the Christ
Don’t let people get away with leaving Jesus in the manger. Remind them that the manger was only a staging area for the liftoff of a truly magnificent life. The birth of Christ signified the starting of a countdown clock for that life to be perfectly lived and efficiently ended. Correct the idea that the first Christmas is the end of the story. Communicate the necessity of both the life of Jesus and his death. Proclaim Jesus as a baby that grew into a Savior.
Christmas apologetics never ends with Christmas. Christmas apologetics begins at T minus 33 years and counting.
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Hebrews 2:14–15, ESV)
 Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews (pp. 71–72). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews (p. 72). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.