What comes to mind when you hear the word “Christmas?” For many people, it’s about being with family, drinking hot chocolate, decorating the tree, eating lots of food, and exchanging gifts with those we love. I think about Hallmark Movies (Kathy loves them), Chevy Chase’s “Christmas Vacation”, Santa Claus, and watching the grandkids open presents.
For those who don’t celebrate Christmas, I wish you a Happy Holidays. For those who do, let’s reflect on what Christmas is all about.
Then the angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.
For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
The first book in the New Testament of the Bible was written by Matthew, one of Jesus’ apostles. He tells us that Mary is engaged to be married to Joseph, but before the wedding, she becomes pregnant through the Holy Spirit. So, Jesus’ mom is a young girl, and his dad is someone called the Holy Spirit, part of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit trinity. Jesus has an earthly mother and a Heavenly Father.
Jesus’ stepdad, Joseph, is a follower of Jewish law. He doesn’t want to shame Mary publicly, so he plans to divorce her quietly. But before he can, an angel comes to Joseph in a dream and tells him not to be afraid to make Mary his wife, because her baby is from the Holy Spirit. The angel tells Joseph that Mary will give birth to a son, and they are to name him Jesus, because “he will save his people from their sins.” He is the Messiah. Joseph does as he is told and they get married.
In the New Testament book of Luke, we are given more information about Jesus’ birth.
Caesar Augustus, the first emperor of Rome, decreed that a census of the entire Roman world, around four million people, should be taken. The purpose of the census is to make sure that everyone in the Roman Empire is paying their taxes. People are told to go to their home town to register.
At the time, Mary and Joseph live in Nazareth, a small farming town of about 500 people, located 80 miles north of Jerusalem. Joseph is a carpenter and Mary is in charge of managing the household. Joseph’s hometown is Bethlehem, so he must travel there to register for the census. The journey is about 70 miles, and probably takes Mary and Joseph 4 to 5 days. Mary, nine months pregnant, rides on the back of a donkey.
When they arrive in Bethlehem, it’s time for Jesus to be born, but there is no place for them to stay, so they end up in a stable where Mary gives birth.
Jesus, the Savior of the world, is born in a dirty, smelly stable, surrounded by farm animals. Not a birth fit for the king he was.
Immediately after Jesus’ birth, there are shepherds living in the fields near Bethlehem. The Lord sends an angel to them, “and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.”
The angel tells them not to be afraid and says,
“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told to them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked,
“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.
When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.
“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.
When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
As you celebrate Christmas this year, remember that Jesus is the reason we celebrate Christmas.
Merry Christmas to each of you.