The Real Meaning of Christmas
My nephew started the car for me this morning so that it would begin to get warm while he waited on me to get to the car. When I opened the car door, he had changed the radio station to Christmas music. Many of us love the music the Christmas season brings. It’s colorful, joyful, exciting all at the same time. It reminds us of Santa, presents, family gatherings – but all most of all; it reminds us of the birth of Jesus. Our Christmas Carols describe where He was born, when He was born, who He was born to and who all came to see Him in the manger. The music reminds us of what Christ brought with Him – peace, good will and most importantly salvation. And like those who gathered to see that tiny baby, we are presented with the truth. God’s love and grace – thus His plan of salvation is coming in a tiny baby. It didn’t arrive in a well-seasoned adult, full of wisdom and strength. God’s love and grace – His plan of salvation wasn’t coming surrounded with the important things of this world – wealth and power. His salvation was coming in the innocence and weakness of a tiny baby. Those who heard of the plan had responses similar to the ones we have today. They responded in doubt, confusion, disbelief, rebellion and fear.
From the account found in the Gospel of Luke we see a man named Zechariah, who was serving as a priest before God. A few months before God’s son would arrive, God sent a man who would act in the spirit and power of Elijah; that is John – we call him John the Baptist. He would tell the people to get ready, prepare a way for the Lord in your lives. That sounds great! The trouble was, John’s father was an old man at the time and he had never had any children. So you can imagine his shock when Gabriel the angel stood before him and said you’re going to have a baby who will do this very important thing. We can imagine Zechariah’s doubtful response because it is probably like ours. “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” In doubt and confusion Zechariah challenged what the angel of the Lord was telling him. In our doubt do we respond to God’s saving grace with confusion? How can God just wipe away all my sin? It doesn’t make human since, how can we be sure of this?
Again in Luke we find the very familiar story of Mary finding out that God had chosen her to be the virgin mother of the Son of God. Mary responded to the revelation with disbelief and fear. But she quickly moved from disbelief and fear to acceptance and a willingness to serve the Lord in any way He chose. Mary may be the role model for us as God calls us to do impossible things for Him. Do we respond with a willingness to serve Him – no matter how He calls us to serve?
In the gospel of Mathew we find the story of Joseph, Jesus’ stepfather. After Mary was found to be pregnant, Joseph, who was a holy man (the NIV text describes him as one who was “faithful to the law”), decided to quietly break his binding engagement to Mary. In his doubt he rebelled against the plan of God and what that plan was doing in Mary’s life. A virgin birth is impossible with humanity. You don’t just turn up pregnant. That is unless you are Mary and God is sending His Son – one time for all people. We might more closely identify with Joseph when God is choosing to do the miraculous. Because the miraculous requires allowing God to work outside of the norm, outside of what we can accomplish on our own. In our doubt do we rebel at God’s grace found in the tiny baby in the Christmas story and choose to just put it away, lay it aside, look for a more human way?
In the gospel of Luke we find some shepherds out in the field late at night. They are the common people; we are told that they were living out in the fields keeping watch over their flocks at night. You can imagine their fear when the angels appeared to them to tell of Jesus’s birth. In their doubt of seeing a bunch of angels in the sky singing – they experienced fear. They were the first of the non-key players (that the bible records) who got to hear the good news – The Savior has been born to you – TO YOU. Jesus wasn’t just born to Mary or Mary and Joseph. He was born to all of us – he would be everyone’s Savior. He was born to you, to me. How do we respond to the overwhelming news that the Savior has been born to us? With fear or with the excitement of the shepherds who, after letting go of their fear – said “Let’s go SEE!
As we move through this Christmas season may we be the ones who respond to the Savior with excitement and joy, may we be the ones who join with the shepherds to go see this wonderful thing God is doing – AND may we take our families and friends – even the strangers and enemies to see what God is doing through an infant, sweet, innocent, yet filled with all the power and authority of Heaven!