And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins. Matthew 1:21
Christmas would have no meaning if it weren't for the cross. Jesus was born to die. When we celebrate Christmas we are celebrating Jesus' birth, but His birth would hold no meaning if He did not die.
Jesus literally means "The Lord's Salvation". For almost 2,000 years Israel had been living under the Mosaic Law. They knew the prophesies of a Messiah that would come and save them. They were eagerly awaiting His arrival. I don't think many of them new exactly what this Messiah would do. Israel was under Roman control during Jesus' life. Maybe they thought He would come to set them free from Roman oppression.
They had been practicing the law and abiding by the sacrificial system ever since the exodus from Egypt, but did they understand that this Messiah would provide Himself as the ultimate and eternal sacrifice?
When Jesus was born, He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. This does show the tender care of Mary for her newborn child, but it is also a foreshadowing of Jesus' death. During that time, when a lamb without blemish was born, it would be wrapped in swaddling clothes in an effort to keep it's coat perfect. Perfect lambs were needed for sacrifices. Swaddling clothes is also what they would use to bury the dead.
There, in the little town of Bethlehem on that silent night, lie the lamb of God, without blemish.
This child is called Emmanuel, which means "God with us". Not only did Jesus literally dwell among man, but He gave man the ability to dwell with God through His death and resurrection. This was the purpose of that child in a manger: to allow God to dwell with man.
This Christmas season, as you sing carols and look at nativity scenes, remember that the power of the nativity is in the cross and the empty tomb. Without Jesus' death and resurrection there would be no reason to celebrate His birth. His mission was redemption.