Christmas. For some of us, this season fills us with childlike joy and excitement. The lights, parties, decorations, cookies, presents, family members…everything about Christmas energizes us and leaves us counting down the months until December. Maybe we don’t even wait until December…maybe we deck our halls in November. Heck, some of us wish we worked in Christmas Shops so we never had to go without the holiday!
And for the rest of us, this season is a stark reminder of all the ways we have failed and the fact that we are alone. Whether we have lost a family member, been harshly separated from one, or feel as though we have failed our families, we would rather close our eyes and fast-forward through this holiday that seems to be a vain attempt to mask the pain for a month. Reality sets in thirty days later reminding us of our failures and aloneness.
But maybe we have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas. Sure, you’ve heard that before, haven’t you? “Let’s remember the reason for the season!” “Keep CHRIST in CHRISTmas!” We put up the nativity scenes, we read through Luke 2, we tell our children this is Jesus’ birthday, we say “Merry CHRISTmas!” and not “Happy Holidays!”. But has it all become so rote that we truly miss out on one of the most fundamental crux’s to our faith? Have our traditions and catchy phrases numbed us to something more?
Isaiah 9:6 says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Go back in time with me…stand from afar and watch as Mary, who is full term now, tries to find a comfortable position on the donkey while she fights her contractions. You can see the pain written across her face. But this isn’t just the pain from the contractions…she has been ridiculed, doubted, and abandoned by her community due to this pregnancy. She’s young…under 20 years of age young. Get a glimpse of her thoughts…what kind of delivery will this be? What does a baby conceived by the Holy Spirit look like? Will Joseph be able to love this boy? Does he still love me because he wants to or because he has to now? Will we be good parents?
Watch Joseph’s face as he frantically looks for the smoothest part of the dusty dirt road while at the same time hopelessly searching for a suitable location for Mary to deliver. The past ten months have been nothing short of Hell for his reputation. But he loved Mary…he believed God…and he would love and raise this boy as well. He made his mind up months ago and he was determined to stay to the course.
Now, come with me into the stable, the most unlikely maternity ward. Listen to Mary scream as she starts to push. Hear Joseph console her. Watch as their son enters the world a takes his first breath. Joseph, an unfit midwife, runs to get water and whatever clean linens he can find. Mary, relieved the worse is over, takes a deep breath and clings to her son.
Do you see the look in her eyes as she stares at him for the first time? She knows that the baby she is holding was conceived by the Holy Spirit. She was told He was the Son of God, that He would save His people from their sins, that He, this tiny life whose fingers were wrapped around her one finger, whose very existence was dependent on her now, that He would be called “Immanuel, which means, God with us.”
Joseph runs back into stable with little pieces of cloth he got from the Inn next door…these linens were probably dish rags. No matter. He needed something with which to clean his son and make sure he was warm. His son. Funny how everything changes when you see that little person for the first time. This was his baby. Held by his wife. The ridicule and embarrassment seemed nothing to Joseph now.
He catches Mary’s eye and they both freeze. The enormity of what just happened is beginning to sink in. They can’t speak, because neither of them have the words. They don’t really know how this all happened, or what they are supposed to do now, or what their future is going to look like. All they know is that they have each other and this precious life, “Immanuel, God with us.” God with them.
Over the next 33 years, Mary would watch the most fascinating life that ever walked the face of the earth. She would see Him change water into wine, heal blind men, raise people from the dead, cast out demons, and feed thousands. She would watch as He graciously interacted with prostitutes, tax collectors, sinners, and lepers. She would hear Him condemn the righteous and religious. And then, she would see Him nailed to a cross. The same person she held in her arms that night in a stable, would have His arms outstretched on a Roman cross. Was this how it was supposed to end? This wasn’t what she signed up for. She thought the Messiah would come and establish His Kingdom. She thought she would be spared from heartache. What was God doing? Was she missing something? She had lost everything for Him. Her reputation, her family, her peace of mind…and now for what? How could God do this to her? How could He do this to her?
And then…three days later…everything changed.
Three days later, Mary saw her son. Oh, but He was no longer her son. No, now He was her Savior. And everything made sense. Her confusion, her pain, her aloneness, her isolation…all of it culminated in the moment she saw Him alive. She got it. She understood why her son, the Messiah, had to die.
So He could offer scandalous grace to those who do not deserve it. To those who truly believe they are too broken, too dirty, too wayward, too unreligious, too unworthy, too unacceptable.
To those who think God could never love them, Jesus Christ is God with Us and proved otherwise. Jesus Christ is the living proof that God desperately wants a relationship with you…with me.
But we fight Him. We fight the Savior of the world. We would rather try to convince Him that we aren’t worth it, while He holds open His outstretched, pierced hands and claims otherwise.
What are you waiting for? Why not give in to a love that has the power to heal you at your depths. Why not surrender to a peace that calms the raging storms within you. Why not?
What do you need this Christmas? I guess the better question is: Who do you need this Christmas? Do you need someone to guide you through a new season, someone to give you answers to the tough questions ahead, someone to tell you how to handle that difficult situation? Then you need a Wonderful Counselor.
Do you nee a miracle? Do you need strength to face another day? Are you not sure how to get around the obstacles in your path? You need a Mighty God.
Do you need to feel safe and secure again? Do you need a protector, a comforter, and encourager? Do you need to feel loved and unconditionally accepted? Then you need an Everlasting Father.
Maybe you need a Savior. Maybe you are at the end of your rope…you know there is a God, but you have no idea how to interact with Him or why He would even want to be with you. All you know is that this can’t be all there is to life. You are drowning in darkness and you see no escape. You need a Prince of Peace.
Jesus Christ came to earth as a baby, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross for YOU. He died because He wants a relationship with YOU and the only way to make that happen is to pay for your sins once and for all. He proved He was capable of that when He rose from the dead three days later. Call out to Him. Tell Him you believe! Tell Him He is your Savior. It is that easy! And rest in the presence of Immanuel, God with Us.