“So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.”
–John 1:14 (NLT)
‘Twas the day after Christmas. All over the floor
The paper was scattered from presents galore.
All the children, it seemed, had gone out to play,
Leaving their harried mom to clean up in dismay.
With Dad watching football, she felt all alone,
And seeing more piles, she started to groan.
So taking a break, she sat down in a chair.
She felt about ready to pull out her hair.
When in the next room there arose such a clatter,
She knew in her heart that it was her good platter.
With a new mess to clean up, she felt quite forlorn,
And because of her children, the gift bag was born.
Long before colored lights and Hallmark movies, the Bible tells us that God sent His only son. Jesus Christ is the most beautiful gift of all, and He is what Christmas is all about. So I don’t mean it flippantly or irreverently when I say that the son of God was clothed in the gift bag of human flesh.
But unlike one of our paper gift bags, there were no frills to detract from the gift. Very little is said about the physical appearance of Jesus, but Isaiah tells us that nothing would especially attract others to Him. Furthermore, the book of Hebrews tells us that He came in the likeness of humanity, so that He would be tempted in all points just as we are.
This helps us readjust our thinking as far as the Christmas story is concerned. When we really stop and ponder the fact that the God of the universe came down to us in human form, it is truly mind-boggling. It doesn’t just set the tone for Christmas. It offers a new dimension for our lives.
Now, however, go one step further with me, and take the gift of Christmas out of the bag. As we honestly scrutinize God’s gift to us, the first thing we will see is that it had to be supernatural. Our romantic notions tend to sanitize the birth of Jesus, which was far from an ordinary event. He was born in relative obscurity, and His birth took place in a smelly cave, after a very long and uncomfortable donkey ride. The idea that the innkeeper had no room for Christ and His earthly parents has been romanticized often, but the very first Christmas was cold and dangerous for the newborn baby, and of course for Mary and Joseph as well.
The Bible tells us that God’s son was conceived by a teenager who had never known a man. The virgin birth of Christ is a nonnegotiable fact of history for anyone who really puts on their Christmas glasses.
In order to be the savior of the world, He had to be both fully God and fully man. If Jesus was born of a man and woman, He would have been tainted, and no different from His sinful counterparts. But as we look at His life, we can see that this is not the case.
While Jesus’ physical appearance may have been plain, His life and teachings were dynamic, and infused with the power of God. But that brings us full circle, so let’s go back to other facts surrounding His birth.
Probably just 14 or 15, Mary must have been terrified when the angel came to her. How would you feel in that situation? I have often asked myself this question, and I’ve tried to put myself in her shoes. Even though she must have been shaking the whole time, her response was truly amazing. I do not say this to magnify Mary, however. I only mean to magnify the divine son she bore.
Don’t forget that Mary was in the midst of planning her wedding when she was visited by the angel. He told her that she was favored by God, and that she would bear the savior of the world. In puzzlement, she asked the only question of him that has been recorded in scripture. “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
Mary knew that being obedient to God might cost her plenty. The law said that she could be stoned for bearing an illegitimate child, and she knew that Joseph could divorce her. However, Mary was determined to carry out her task and obey God, in spite of her own doubts and the possible cost to her.
To be honest, I have to wonder if my own love for God prompts that kind of obedience today. Thinking through her story, then, I have found the Christmas season to be a good time for self-examination.
Now we turn to the life of Joseph. I believe there are two main characteristics which stand out here. Again, we see obedience as he was told by God’s angel to take Mary as his wife, despite her unexplained pregnancy. The carpenter heeded God’s order once more when he fled to Egypt with his family.
But what speaks to me even more is the humility we see in him. Joseph was mainly in the shadows, supporting his young wife on their journey. But he risked his own reputation for what he knew to be right.
Jesus would later say, “What profit does a man have if he gains the whole world, but loses his own soul?” So while Christmas is a time of unspeakable love and joy, it is also a time for great reflection. As I think about the huge cost that others paid, I have to ask myself how that knowledge will affect my life.
Finally, I have spoken about one of the two book-end events associated with Christ–the virgin birth. The second book-end is the resurrection of Christ. While we usually don’t speak about it in the context of Christmas, I feel that we are doing a disservice to this great event if we don’t mention it. I say this because the resurrection was Christ’s seal of approval, and it sets Him apart from other men. It tells us that He came to that manger for you specifically.
In the light of this great revelation, make your Christmas joy complete today. You can do this by accepting His gift. Or, if you are a follower of His, I challenge you to let that gift and its great cost shape your life to a greater degree.
On that note, my wife Stephanie and I wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!
Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 101 S Kraemer BLVD, Suite 123A, Placentia, CA 92870.
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