Red seems to be everywhere when Christmas comes around. It is the most common color for Santa’s suit thanks to Coca-Cola. Red balls, bows, and lights hang on many Christmas trees. Peppermint canes are stripped with red. Even nature joins in as deep green holly sports its red fruit. Is there a deeper meaning here or is it a marketing ploy designed to capture our attention like Rudolf’s bright red nose? There is a special significance to the color red in relation to Christmas but it may not be comfortable to talk about.
It is said there is a red or scarlet thread of redemption running throughout the entire Bible. From the animals sacrificed to provide skin covers for Adam and Eve after they ate the forbidden fruit and God’s promise to send a messiah. Through the animal sacrifices offered by Noah, Abraham, and Moses. Including the scarlet fabric identifying Rahab’s house in Jericho the Israelite spies swore to protect. And culminating in the bloody scene of Christ’s torture and crucifixion. Almost all of these examples have to do with blood.
We read in scripture that life is in the blood (Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 17:11). And that Moses, “sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood. And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:21–22, NASB95) Peter powerfully observed that Jesus “bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24, NASB95) A healing that touches spirit, soul, and body.
It’s not comfortable or a pleasant to impose the violence of the crucifixion on the silent night of Bethlehem’s stable. Or to remind folks of Sin’s penalty when the message of “Peace on Earth” is ringing. We’d rather think of Black Friday as a shopping day instead of the day Jesus died a gruesome, painful, humiliating death devoid of dignity. But without the cross, there can be no peace on earth and the events of Bethlehem have no lasting meaning.
Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Romans 5:8–10, NASB95) And John recorded, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16–17, NASB95)
The color red reminds us of the true depth of the Christmas story. Jesus wasn’t born to be a well respected religious teacher or prophet but to save you and me by the shedding of His blood. Jesus said, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10:10, NLT) Perhaps you doubt that anyone would care, could care, so much that they would willingly lay aside their own life for you. But Jesus did. Which is undoubtedly the greatest Christmas gift of all time. That is the real reason for our celebration and the colors of Christmas.