Who would want to miss celebrating Christmas, the most beautiful holiday of the year? Even for the poor, for those who are ill, for the sad and lonely, this joyous occasion is still relevant. No matter how much the opinions in this world diverge, few want to miss out on Christmas. And yet there are relatively few people who celebrate Christmas in the right way and know the real joy of Christmas.
In that holy night on the fields of Bethlehem, the shepherds heard “Good tidings of great joy…for there is born to you this day… a Savior” (Luke 2:10-11).
Do we really have great joy because the Savior was born? Do we think about the birth of Jesus in the manger with gladness? Deep down in our hearts, are we thankful? Maybe we belong to that group of people who, because of tradition, still read that old, old Christmas story on Christmas Eve and also sing the well-known Christmas carols. We find it festive to read the Bible and enjoy the traditional carols. But that cannot be our main interest. What good is it that Christ was born into our world over two thousand years ago if He has not been born in our hearts, and abides there, filling our lives?
“For there is born to you this day a Savior!” What a profound, overwhelming, and blessed message it was for those shepherds! But why did that message specifically come to those shepherds? Why was it not first proclaimed in the royal palace of Herod? Why were the rich and noble not the first recipients of this message from heaven? Why did even Bethlehem itself, where Jesus was born, not notice this wonderful event taking place? Was it because the hearts of the shepherds were open and receptive to receive their King?
The heart of Herod was power-hungry. The hearts of the noble and rich were preoccupied with earthly pleasures, wishes, and thoughts. But the hearts of those poor shepherds were expectant, ready for the One who was to come. Perhaps on that very night they had even talked about the Messiah who was to come, hoping that He would come soon to right the wrongs.
He came to those who expected Him, not to those who had no desire, but to those who longed for Him. He revealed Himself in a lowly stable. The Messiah lay in a manger. Those simple men coming to see Him had no reason to fear. They were familiar with mangers. “He belongs to us.” They were not in surroundings that made them feel uncomfortable.
The shepherds were only the first of a great, innumerable multitude. Everyone belonging to this group knows what the shepherds knew: “He belongs to us!” Possessing true humanity, truly human, this divine Son of God was born as one of us. Into the depth of our poverty, our helplessness, and much more, into our pathetic hopelessness and sinful situation, He came and made Himself our equal. Into my personal hopelessness, into the depth of my sin, Jesus came down and became my advocate and sacrifice. Only in that way could He be my Savior.
Have we ever considered this wonderful truth which truly frees us? Have we experienced it for ourselves? The Child born in Bethlehem is proof of how much God loves us. He loved us so much that He gave us Christ, born as a weak and helpless child. He let this Child grow and become intimately acquainted with all of our woe and sorrow, eventually dying to be our Savior. What a blessed mystery of the love of God! Who can understand and fathom it?
Even though we can never fully comprehend it, we can experience it! “The secret of the Lord is with those who fear him” (Psalm 24:14a). “He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly” (Proverbs 2:7). If we desire to walk uprightly, the longing of those shepherds long ago can become our longing.
When we realize that the world and its pleasures cannot satisfy our inner longing, when we are saddened by our own inadequacies, when we long for a higher power that must exist, then the Savior is there for us. He comes as the compassionate Healer. He is the One who has balm for our wounds. He is that Friend in whom we can confide and with whom we can share everything. Then He becomes our Savior. He lets us become an abode of His glory. Only a heart that has experienced Christ as personal Savior can have the true, pure, and deep joy of Christmas.