Last week in Ottawa, I had the joying to telling the Christmas story at a Christian Embassy banquet for government leaders–MPs, Senators and ambassadors. The challenge was the time limit: three minutes.
Having a three minute time limit turned out to be a blessing. It forced me to focus on essential aspects and get to the heart of the message. I’ve also been able to give this short-version of the Christmas story in conversations with friends from our community.
Here’s the 3 minute version I gave at the banquet. Feel free to adapt it and use it to tell people around you the good news of Jesus this Christmas.
If you really want to understand the Christmas story, you not only need to know WHAT happened at Christmas, you need to know WHY it happened.
Thankfully, there is a verse in the Bible that gives us both the WHAT and the WHY of Christmas. The verse I’m referring to is Matthew 1:21: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
These words were spoken by an angel to Joseph, who was engaged to be married to young woman named Mary. Joseph found out Mary was expecting a baby and knew the baby was not his child. He planned to break the engagement until an angel appeared to him in a dream.
The angel told him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. The baby she was carrying was a miracle baby, placed in her by the Holy Spirit.
So WHAT happened at Christmas? God miraculously sent Jesus to be born of Mary.
But WHY did all this happen? Matthew 1:21 gives the short answer to that question when it says, “you shall call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins.”
So the reason Jesus came was to carry out a rescue operation. God sent Jesus to save us from our sins.
Many of you here tonight serve in official capacities for your governments. You are well aware of the many troubles we face in our world: economic troubles, political turmoil, racial tensions. God knows about all these troubles, but He sees our biggest problem as our sin.
The Bible describes sin as what we do when we turn away from God and go our own way–in our words, attitudes, motives or actions. God calls us to love; we choose to hate. He calls us to be humble; we become proud. He tells us to speak the truth; we tell lies. He tells us to serve others; we serve ourselves.
God sees sin as a very big deal. He sees it as an act of rebellion. Sin is high treason—a coup against the reign of heaven.
What is surprising is how God responded to our sins against Him. Instead of choosing to destroy us, He sent Jesus to save us. Christmas was part of God’s rescue operation for the human race.
And the biggest surprise was how Jesus carried out this rescue operation. First, He took on our humanity and lived among us—feeding the hungry, healing the sick, caring for the outcasts. And then, most surprising of all, He died on the cross. He died to take our place, to be our substitute. He paid the penalty for our high treason against heaven.
And He surprised everyone again by rising from the dead three days later, giving us the hope that death can be defeated by resurrection.
So WHAT happened at Christmas? God’s son, Jesus, became Mary’s baby.
WHY did this happen at Christmas? It was part of God’s rescue operation for all of us.
When I was a young boy—about 7 years old—I came to understand the meaning of Christmas. I knew I had sinned and needed God to save me. I trusted in Jesus, asking Him to forgive me and give me new life. Now I have the joy of passing on the good news of God’s rescue story. It’s a story that has changed my life and the lives of many others; as you believe it and receive it, it will change yours as well.