NEW YORK CITY – During the Christmas season, we rightly focus on that night in Bethlehem when God became a little child and came to earth. But what was that night really about?
Popular New York City pastor Tim Keller goes way beyond the manger in his book Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ. Keller puts this Christmas story into the widest possible context: God's courageous, infinite sacrifice to save humans' darkened souls.
"The world is a dark place spiritually, and there needed to be some kind of light that came into the world," Keller told CBN News. "Jesus is the Light of the World."
The founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan scoffs at those who, in the Christmas glow, contend humans can all get together and save this fallen world – that mankind can be the light. He insisted that's not what the Bible says.
Darkness Can't Create the Light
"It doesn't say that a light has sprung from the earth," Keller stated. "Because we're not capable of dealing with our darkness. We need to have light from outside that comes and dispels the darkness."
Keller pointed out how the Gospels show a teenager in her obeying and submitting to carrying Jesus, became a model to all who want to bring Christ into themselves and out to the world, and see Him do wonders.
"We're all like Mary in that if we say to God, 'I am the handmaiden of the Lord, let it be unto me according to Thy will,' God's going to do great things in the world through us," he said.
'Be Born in Us Today'
Then the New York City pastor quoted from the Christmas carol 'O Little Town of Bethlehem.'
"'Cast out our sin and enter in. Be born in us today.' There is a sense in which Christ is formed in us when we submit ourselves in faith and repentance to God," Keller explained.
In Hidden Christmas, he writes, "Christmas and the incarnation mean that God went to infinite lengths to make himself one whom we can know personally."
No Other Religion Has Such a God
"He became subject to hunger, to weariness. He became subject obviously to torture and to death. And there is no other religion that says that," Keller argued. "There is no other religion that says the Creator God of the Universe became a human being and went through all the same things we go through."
He also writes in Hidden Christmas, "No other religion has a God who needed courage… Jesus could save us only by facing an agonizing death… He became mortal and vulnerable so that he could suffer, be betrayed and killed. He faced all these things for you, and he thought it worth it."
"We have a God who loved us so much, that He was willing to need courage, and to face suffering and death for us," Keller said. "It was an infinite cost and He was willing to pay it."