Christmas: what’s it really all about? (Many are tempted here to roll their eyes and under their breath say, “Christmas is an old worn out story I’ve heard 1000 times. Give me something relevant to the reality of life today.”)

Pull up a chair for a moment and listen to a story.

Once upon a time, in something God calls the very fullness of time, a young woman named Mary became miraculously pregnant. Yes, there’s a whole story about that, but if we stop here to tell that story we’ll lose track of the bigger story which is the story of her baby boy.

When it came time for Mary to give birth, she and her husband, Joseph, weren’t at home in Nazareth but visiting a town called Bethlehem. Yes, there’s a story about why they were in Bethlehem but that too is another story for another time.

The best place they could find to stay was adjacent to the room where their host family’s animals were brought in for the night. (Yes, I’m sure you’ve heard it was a stable but that’s not exactly accurate and we want to get the facts straight here.) So, when Jesus was born, his mother wrapped him in bands of cloth and laid him in the feed trough which would have been more like a depression in the floor than a wooden cradle. But again, that’s another story.

The birth of Mary’s baby was BIG news!  The angels – yes, real angels! –  couldn’t keep the news of Christ’s birth to themselves. They’d been waiting eons for God to do what He was doing right then! And what was God doing, you ask? God was taking on human flesh, entering human history, with a plan to redeem His precious human creations from the brokenness of their own sin. Totally mind-blowing! Amazing beyond words! So, unable to contain their joy, the angelsburst forth in hallelujahs that rang through the heavens. These angels sang the very first Christmas carol. As they announced God’s promise fulfilled, people noticed. Well, at least a few people who were basically camping outside on that first Christmas night.

Shepherds who were watching over their flocks heard and saw the angels – and believed. Why? Because they’d been prepared in advance. They’d heard stories for generations about the promise of God to send a Savior. So, when the skies were filled with angels heralding the arrival of the King of kings, the shepherds believed. They rushed to celebrate the birth of the long expected one, the Messiah, the King of the Jews, the Savior of the world!

Yes, you’re right, each one of those titles comes with a story of its own. But for sake of the story we’re telling right here, the real Christmas story, suffice it to say Mary’s child is the Christ. Thus, Christ – mas.

But the Christmas story here wouldn’t be complete without mention of the mysterious star that lit the way for the shepherds. That same natal star signaled to wise men in the East that the world’s promised redeemer had been born. They lived in a land once ruled by the Babylonians who conquered the land of Israel. (You could use a map here – if you take that detour from the main story, what you’re looking for is a city along the Euphrates River about 50 miles south of the modern day city of Baghdad, Iraq.) One of the captives who was taken from Jerusalem to Babylon was a young Jewish we know as Daniel. There’s a whole book in the Old Testament about him, but here, in the Christmasstory, suffice it to say, Daniel was a dreamer and a prophet and in 538 BC he told a story about a star that would rise and under that star the world’s Messiah would be found.

So, the real Christmas story reaches back (into the Old Testament all the way to the Beginning when God determined to redeem His precious people from their sin) and the true story reaches forward to faith and hope found today in the One who came as the Christ. The Christmas story centers on a baby in a manger in a little town called Bethlehem when the Romans ruled over the land of Israel. There’s never been a child like Him and there’s never been another since. Christmas literally wouldn’t be without the Christ child, Jesus.

We can read the genealogies of Jesus and the prophecies his birth fulfills. We can consider the remarkable reality of God’s grace in taking on human flesh to dwell among us; a Messiah born to die that we might live. We can rejoice with Zechariah and Elizabeth at the birth of their son, John. Equally miraculous in his conception and sent by God as the forerunner of the promised Messiah. We can ponder all these things with Mary and dream with Joseph. We can delight with Simeon and Anna as the promises of God find their fulfillment. But if we’re wise, we’ll attend to the story. We’ll celebrate with the angels this holiday season, and we’ll seek Him like the wise men of old.

I love to tell the story of the true meaning of Christmas. The real story. The story of the Good News of Great Joy for All People. That on this one night, in the city of David, a child was born. Emmanuel, God with us! He is Christ the Lord! His coming changes everything for everyone, everywhere, for all time.

Making it real this Christmas

What’s your Christmas story?

When did the reality of the gift of God, wrapped in human flesh, take on meaning for you? When did the reality of Christmas dawn for you? When did the light of His love shine and you saw Jesus for who is really is and why He really came?

That’s the story to tell this Christmas. That’s the gift the world needs that only you can give.

Now, go! Tell the story! Tell it to everyone who will listen! Jesus Christ is born! Hallelujah and Amen!

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