This last Sunday was the beginning of the Advent Season; the season in which we all begin to anticipate Christmas. It is so easy to get focused on planning holiday meals, and decorating the house, shopping and gift wrapping. It is also easy to get focused on both the good and the hard of getting extended families together as we deal with different personalities, values, and dysfunction. And as we repeatedly hear the phrase, "Jesus is the reason for the season," we all try to contemplate the meaning of Christmas.
We find ourselves thinking about the angel telling a young girl she would bear the Son of God and the beautiful words she penned in response:
"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked on the humble estate of His servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to His offspring."
We find ourselves thinking about the virgin bride and the man betrothed to her, traveling far to pay their taxes. We think think about the virgin, heavy with child, being turned away and directed to rest where animals rest, giving birth in the dark of night. We think about the newborn babe lying in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. We think about the irony of shepherds being surprised by an angel announcing the birth of the Lamb of God and their trek to Bethlehem to the beat of the angel Choir singing praises to God and we can envision those shepherds kneeling before the Lamb in the manger bed.
We think about the star-gazing Magi who believed in prophecies, recognizing the Christmas Star and following it all the way to Bethlehem, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh worshiping at the feet of the young King.
But the truth is, these are just part of the beautiful story we call Christmas. There are many other stories in the Bible which are just as much a part of the epic redemptive saga. The stories are like chapters in a book where each individual chapter is needed to grasp the fullness and the richness of the story.Christmas is also about God fulfilling the promise He made in Eden to destroy the Enemy. We all know the Enemy for he is the one tempting and taunting us with blatant, ugly lies. He is the one seeking to destroy us through addictions, pornography, and other strongholds of sin that never satisfy and have a deep grip on the soul. He is the one trying to destroy our relationship with our Creator by drawing our attention away from the One who loves us completely, purely, and sacrificially. He is also the one trying to cast doubt on God's goodness by twisting His truth so it looks like rules of deprivation rather than the carefully crafted protection. He is trying to cast doubt on God's faithfulness by by convincing people that the hard we face in this life is proof of God's lack of care. He is trying to cast doubt on God's grace by adding all sorts of legalistic man-made rules to the gospel of grace.
Christmas is also about God being a keeper of covenants. It is about Him keeping His covenant with Noah, promising to never again destroy all life with flood waters. It is also about God keeping his covenant with Abraham, promising to give him a son, land to call his own, and enough descendants to make a great nation through which all families of the earth would be blessed. Christmas is about God revealing and then fulfilling the dream of Jacob's ladder, providing mankind a gateway to the courts of heaven. It is about Him changing Jacob from being a deceiver and manipulator to one who wanted nothing more than to be blessed by God.
Christmas is about preserving the life of Joseph while he was living in Egypt so that He could preserve Israel through a famine. It is also about God then freeing Israel from the slavery that they were forced into. It is also about God walking them all the way back to the promised home land, drowning Pharaoh's army that was in hot pursuit.
Christmas is about the prostitute Rahab being saved as she clung to the hope promised in a scarlet cord hanging from her window as the walls of Jericho came crumbling down around her. It is about her being taken from the life of prostitution and being placed into the family line of the Savior.
Christmas is about Ruth finding grace in her mother-in-law's family, enabling her to give birth to the grandfather of David.
Christmas is about the covenant God made with David, promising that through David a King would come whose throne would never end. It is about the King who would reign in righteousness, love, power, truth and grace unlike David who, though passionate in his pursuit of God, stumbled and fell.
Christmas is about the fulfillment of prophesies given by the God who wants us to know His Son. He told us Jesus would be born to a virgin in Bethlehem. He told us He would be from the tribe of Judah. He told us He would be from the family of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David, which in all honesty is a family as messy and dysfunctional as any one of ours. He told us Jesus would spend time in Egypt and Nazareth, while the enemy would slaughter many children in an attempt to kill Him. He told us Jesus would be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty Prince, and Emmanuel.
And, this, all of this and so much more is Christmas.