If you think you’re ethical enough or strong enough on your own, then God becoming man to rescue you and invite you into His family won’t sound like the incredible happiness it’s being offered to you as.
If you’re trusting in you, Christmas as Christmas can’t be a joyous message for you at all. The holiday trappings may still be nice, but what the day was created to commemorate will go right over your head.
There’s a parable Jesus told about trusting in yourself. It applies to a Christian whose confidence is in his theological precision, to an academic whose identity is in her degree and high-minded dialogue, to a social reformer who finds his value in being on the cutting edge of a societal revolution, to a cultural conservative whose sense of achievement is in her being different from most of 2015 America, and to a liberal Christian whose meaning comes from being (in his own estimation) beyond the other Christians around him in his day and place. It applies to every heart that trusts in anything other than the free righteousness of Jesus Christ, offered only by grace through faith.
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get. But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
God having come to rescue us from what we deserve is startling and beautiful, but only if you’re like sinner #2. Only if you realize how wicked and helpless you are and call upon the sole person with the authority (and willingness) to forgive you.
If you’re heart is hardened like sinner #1, it doesn’t matter what else is on your resume. You’ll miss the point of Christmas. God’s Gospel won’t break you and put you back together, like it did the sinner Zacchaeus in the chapter after the one this parable is from. If you’re trusting in you, in any way, you’ll miss the point of Christmas.
And, on a much grander scale, you’ll miss the point of life altogether: Worshiping the glory and beauty of the Jesus Christ who offers pardon. And for broken-hearted wretches, that’s ultimately why Christmas is a happy and hopeful day.