So many of us have had our plans for the Christmas holidays disrupted this year. From optimism only a couple of weeks ago about licensing of vaccines and the promise of a bit of relaxation from all the Covid-19 rules, we are back into something that looks so close to lockdown as to make little difference.
Thoughts of enjoying Christmas with family and friends have had to be hurriedly amended, for some a cause of real anguish and serious mental distress. All in all this has been a difficult year and it could easily get us down as we grind towards its conclusion, even if we manage to do so tucking into a Covid-responsible Christmas dinner.
I wonder though, whether a quieter time over the Christmas period might give us all a bit more time to reflect on what it is all about. At some level I think we all know that Christmas is not really about boozy office parties or a frank exchange of brexit opinions over the turkey with Aunty Agnes.
So what is it all about? Does it really matter? Should we just treat it as one huge social and commercial hoopla or is there a serious truth behind the Christmas story that it is still worth getting hold of? I truly believe that there is. The basic facts of the story are still reasonably well known even in a largely secular country. The stable, the shepherds and the wise-men remain staples of school nativity plays and Christmas cards, even if the former have been severely curtailed this year. But for many people it means no more to them than stories of Santa, elves and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting lifeJohn 3:16, the bible
What you think about Santa, etc is really of no consequence. What you think about the baby in the manger is of fundamental importance. The verse quoted above was written by a man who personally knew Jesus of Nazareth and His mother, Mary. John’s history of the Lord Jesus’ life was written in the first century within a matter of decades of the events recorded. This, and the other gospel accounts written by Matthew, Mark and Luke, have come to us completely unchanged. The story of this life is not a myth or a legend – it is a historical fact. It is astonishing and it is supernatural, yes, but it is true.
It is John who tells us that the One who lay in the manger was God. The divine trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit were involved in sending the Lord Jesus Christ to earth. This was no ordinary baby, He was the Son of God!
She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”Matthew 1:21, the bible
Matthew tells us why He came. As every good school nativity play records, the angel announced to Joseph that the child should be called Jesus, which means ‘the Lord saves’ because “He will save His people from their sins.”
This is largely forgotten in the Christmas story today. Unless, of course you listen carefully to the words of the traditional Christmas carols.
How silently, how silently,o little town of bethlehem, Phillips Brooks
the wondrous gift is giv’n!
So God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of the heav’ns.
No ear may hear his coming,
but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive him still
the dear Christ enters in.
The story of the first Christmas leads inexorably to the story of Easter, the death burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. It was why He came. And it is why the Christmas story is still worth remembering today and every day.