The season is festive, full of colored lights and beautiful ornaments. There is shopping and shopping and shopping. Our entire economy depends on this season of the year. How did that happen?? We all want to give the perfect gift. One that will be just right and memorable. We want to be rosy-cheeked as we come home with our treasures. We want to be smiling as we prepare our Christmas feast. We want this to be a family time without strife and without pain.
But just before the big day, the Visa bill arrives and – yikes! – we didn’t realize it was going to be that much! We notice a headache and an uncomfortable feeling in the stomach. Then, we try to reconcile this with the thought, “It only happens once a year!” And then we think, “It’s a good thing too, or we would be bankrupt.” Is this the way you want this time to be?
We even have to fight with the government just to say “Merry Christmas” and display a Nativity scene. In some ways, it has become such a ridiculous event that we just think, “This year, we will just forget it! We will take a cruise or go to a desert island. It won’t cost much more than buying gifts that will be re-gifted next year.”
So what is this all about? Is Christmas just a social gathering of family and friends? How did it begin?
The event is described in Scripture. A young girl from Nazareth is minding her own business and she is visited by an angel. Our minds can’t wrap around that as we have never had an angelic visit us. We have an angel on the shelf and we even have an angel lapel pin, hoping it will bring us favor. As we read the story, this angel actually talked to Mary! He told her that she would have a baby and she said, “I have never known a man.” This is just unbelievable and I know it doesn’t make sense, but stay with me.
The story continues. The angel said, “The Spirit of God will come upon you and you will conceive and get pregnant. The baby will be a boy and you are to name him Jesus – in Hebrew – Yeshua – which means salvation.” So she was to have a baby and name him Salvation. His Daddy is the Spirit of God! How do you wrap your head around this? It was a very strange event but for some reason, this young girl, who was maybe 15 years old, said, “I accept this. I will do it.” When the angel left, she sang a song of praise. Really?
Her fiance wasn’t quite as excited about the whole thing as she was. When Mary told him what had happened, he thought, “This is a fable and I don’t believe any of it!” He fled her presence. “Oh,” he cried in anguish, “How could Mary do this? I care about Mary so much, I will just break it off quietly and not have her stoned.” (That was how they did it in those days. Be unfaithful to your husband-to-be and they would take you to the edge of town and put an end to you.)
As he was thinking it over, the angel shows up again. (How can that be? I want an angel to visit me.) He tells Joseph to cool it. This thing with Mary is not what you think it is. The Spirit of God is the Father of the baby and Joseph is to marry her but keep his hands off her until after the baby is born. Wow! How would you feel? But, the angelic visit changed his heart. He believed that the baby Mary was carrying was the Son of God. He agreed to continue with their plans. That, too, is amazing!
About this time, the government gets involved and the couple have to make a long trip to Bethlehem to register to be taxed. So, Joseph takes Mary who is near her due date and they head out. When they arrive, the hotels are all booked. (They should have called ahead.) But, the inn-keeper saw the circumstances of this young couple and he wanted to help them. He offered his barn.
I spent my early years on a farm and I know that barns are really organic. There are animals, hay, manure, owls, and pigeons. It has no fireplace but the animals give off a certain heat. Joseph and Mary gladly accepted the offer and moved into one of the stalls. They found clean hay and made a place for Mary to lay as she birthed this special child. When the baby had arrived, she fell asleep and Joseph rigged up a place for the baby in a feeding trough.
There is more to the story, but this is how it all began. No shopping malls, no colored lights and carols. Just the sounds of animals breathing and braying. All alone, in a barn, helping each other bring the baby into the world, when they had never been intimate with each other in the way of men and women. A young girl and a man following the leading of an angel messenger, and quietly changing the world.
This special baby comes into the world without anything. He is totally humbled. God is his Father, but he is fully human without the special privileges that religion has assigned to him. We can touch him and kiss him. He cries, poops and sucks on Mary’s breast. He gets the hiccups and he smiles. This baby is destined to bring salvation to the world. He is even named Salvation. No pressure there!
Rumors get out and soon Mary and Joseph are visited by another angel. They find themselves fleeing to Egypt as already the government wants to kill him. How dangerous can a baby born in a barn be, for heaven’s sake?
This is the true Christmas story. It has little relevance to what we have made of it. He came to bring us back to Spirit-life like we had in the Garden. Because this baby was the Son of God, he came to live through all the junk we do, so he could set us free. He made it possible for us to hang out with Father in the beautiful life that He designed for us. Jesus – Salvation is our big brother but we have to invite him in. We’ll look at more of “his-story”as we go on, but for today, enjoy the lights, the holly and the tree, and remember that He is how this all came to be. Ask Him to make your Christmas special by inviting Him into your heart to spend it with you. He is waiting . . . . . . . . . .
It is easy to do. The Bible says that those who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved. Read John 3:16, 17. Find out how much He loves you and that He is just waiting for you to call out to Him. Each of us come to the realization of who He is in a different way. For me, I was driving down the road, listening to the radio preacher when God took over his voice and I knew for sure that He was real. I just began to say, “I’m sorry Jesus. I just didn’t know. I didn’t know.” So it isn’t a formula, it is a heart thing. Ask Him to make Himself real and I promise that He will.
Matthew 1:18-25, 2:1-23
Luke 1:26-56, 2:1-7