Have you ever had a birthday party where at least half of your invited friends didn’t acknowledge it was your birthday (they came because they thought certain others were coming), and most of the rest brought you a gift or card because they really wanted cake, ice cream and game prizes? It makes me wonder how Jesus feels about the way we celebrate His incarnation into the world in this country.
It would be very easy for me to claim I celebrate Christmas for the right reasons – after all, I love Jesus. But, am I demonstrating He is my priority when I become so immersed in all the traditions that go with this Season (gift shopping/giving, decorating, cooking/baking, entertaining friends and family, altruistic serving) that I am exhausted by the time Christmas Day arrives, not to mention suffering the emotional anxiety and stress of getting it all done in the weeks preceding?
A closer examination of why I do what I do has revealed I have a romantic notion of Christmas that was implanted when I was a child. The beautiful carols about Jesus’ birth, along with the wonderful story of a manger, shepherds in the field, and Wisemen following a star, had me watching the night sky year after year to see if one star was really bigger and brighter than any other. Would the magic manifest before my eyes? What was it like to have been there?
As an adult, I want to recreate that magic; but then comes the reality check. It is really scary to give birth to your first child without the security, comfort, and help provided by hospitals, doctors, nurses, and mid-wives. (Thank-You, Lord, for epidurals and drugs!) What about the gossip and accusations Mary suffered for being pregnant out-of-wedlock? The rejection just kept coming, as she and Joseph were turned away from every human dwelling, leaving nothing but a dirty, smelly animal shelter as a birthing room. To me, not even fresh straw offers any consolation. It is sticky and scratchy – actually a poor cushion. While joy is a primary emotion following the birth of a child, what preceded this baby’s arrival had to have been permeated with fear.
Joseph and Mary were certainly not the only ones dealing with fear. Have you ever experienced something so scary that your knees gave way, you couldn’t breathe, or you felt nauseous? This was the reality for the shepherds who had their dark, quiet night interrupted by angels. Just one angel materializing out of nothing would have been terrifying, much less thousands! Glorious?!? Well, maybe after they were gone…
I imagine no one was having an easy time of it – not even Jesus. I can see the Father saying to Jesus, Who created the world with Him, “I have a job for You to do.”
“Not to worry, it all leads to Your purpose to effectively teach and demonstrate My love to My people. And by the way, Your ultimate purpose is to be the atoning sacrifice for the sins of all the people who have been, who are, and who will come…that’s right, I’m sending You to die…in their places so they can have relationship with Me through You. I’m really sorry about that – it will be horrible – I wish there was another way. (heavy sigh)”
“You know that You and I share the same heart, and in sending You to Earth, I am rending My Own heart. I AM the Sacrifice in You. No created thing can fulfill all Justice and Righteousness – that is Who We are. And that is how much We love Our children.”
For any of us going through hardship, suffering, or fear of any kind (even for those with daunting to-do lists) the miracle of Christmas just became more tangible. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:18-39)
For this incredible, sacrificial gift, we should be celebrating with all our might!