What is Christmas to you? To many, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. A time to enjoy the holidays with family and friends. A time to admire all of the Christmas decorations and the beauty of the winter season. A time to attend a church service and sing those uplifting Christmas carols. But is there not more to Christmas?
On that first Christmas some 2000 years ago, there was no room at the inn in Bethlehem for a young Jewish couple who were expecting their first child. The baby was born and laid in a manger outside the inn. It seemed like no one really noticed this birth and yet it was like no other. Mary the mother was a virgin who bore a child as was prophesised of old (Isaiah 7:14). An angel had appeared to Joseph her husband and explained that this child was God’s Son and was to be called Jesus, the Savior who would save all of us from our sins (Matthew 1:20-23). A very special child who was also called Immanuel or God with us. Such good news needed to be proclaimed from the heavens and so the angels appeared that night and told the shepherds in a field nearby, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:14.
The shepherds ran to see to see the newborn child with Mary and Joseph. With joy in their hearts they spread this amazing news of the Savior’s birth in all the neighborhood. One would assume that many, yes everyone, would come to see Immanuel that night or in the days to follow. Yet to this day, many only hear of Jesus but do not know Him as Lord. To them Christmas is only another holiday season.
Days would pass until the wise men from the east came to Jerusalem (Matthew 2:1-12). They had been open to God’s leading and followed His star to the city. They inquired of King Herod where the Messiah was born and he gathered the chief priests and scribes to answer this. They based their answer on the prophecy of God’s Word quoting the prophet Micah 5:2, which pointed them to Bethlehem. The wise men travelled the few kilometers to Bethlehem and followed the star right to where the young Jesus was. They were overjoyed and gave their treasures to Him and worshipped the Savior of the world! Yet where were the learned priests and scribes of Jerusalem? Could they not travel the few kilometers to Bethlehem to see their long awaited Messiah? Should they not have proclaimed this amazing news to all the people of Jerusalem and encouraged them to come and receive the greatest gift from heaven?! Yet we only read of the wise men going to see the Savior of the world. How could so many miss God’s most precious gift?
Even to this day, it would seem that most people miss Jesus; yet He is not far from any of us and remains the central message of Christmas! Do we listen to the Holy Spirit as He reveals that Immanuel wishes to dwell with and in us? This is possible if we believe in the message of God’s Word, that through repentance and faith in Jesus’ name, God’s peace will enter our hearts and He will live there! When I was young, I travelled around the globe seeking truth and never found it until I met Jesus and believed in Him. It was only then that I found the peace and light of God.
Every Christmas the light of God’s truth continues to shine through the Christmas story drawing all people to God’s goodwill. Jesus is, “The true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” John 1:9. John goes on to explain that many do not receive the light because they prefer the darkness of their sinful ways (v. 5-11). Yet those who accept this most precious gift of God, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (v. 12f.).
Dear reader, have you accepted this wonderful gift of God’s grace? Jesus who died for each of us and rose again has paid the price of reconciling us with God. It is a free gift of amazing grace to save us from God’s judgment and set us free to serve God in holiness and righteousness all the days of our lives. It is not enough to know about Jesus and celebrate Christmas with nice traditions and church attendance, but we must be born again of the Spirit as Jesus explains in John 3:1-21.
Are we too busy to listen to God’s voice? Is the message of Christ in Christmas falling on spiritually deaf ears? Are we like those who never came from Jerusalem to see the Messiah or are we like the shepherds who received Him and spread the Good News? Let us take time to quietly reflect on God’s story written for us and pray for God’s guidance. Do you not hear Jesus whispering your name and offering you His most precious gift of grace and forgiveness?
As Jesus gathered His first disciples, He said to them “Come and see” (John 1:39). Nathanael was one of first to come with an honest seeker’s heart and he would declare of Jesus, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49). This Christmas you too can come and see Him and declare that Jesus is the Son of God and receive Him as your personal Savior! As each one of us receives God’s greatest gift, the angels of heaven rejoice and once again declare, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Truly this is Christmas.