It’s Christmas Eve! The anticipation of Christmas day is tangible!
The Christmas season is my favorite time of year. One of the things that I love most about Christmas is all of the stories and legends I get to read with students each year. The stories of reindeer, elves, Santa, and other legendary characters bring the magic and charm to Christmas!
But do you know the greatest Christmas story? Or really the greatest story of all time? Let me share it with you!
Over two thousand years ago, there was a fourteen year old girl living in a “nothing” town called Nazareth. This girl was unremarkable, but her heart, however was wholly devoted to Adonai, the one and only God. Her name was Mary.
One day, as Mary went about her daily routine, a spectacular sight made her drop to her knees in fear and wonder. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” a heavenly figure said to her. “God has chosen you to carry His Son. When He is born, you will name Jesus.”
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they will call his name Emmanuel (which means, God is with us).Matthew 1:23
Mary questioned this message as it was not physically possible for her to have a child. She was a virgin. The angel told her that God Himself would place His Son inside of her.
Mary accepted God’s message for her, but Joseph, her fiancé, struggled. Was Mary telling the truth about this pregnancy? How could it have been possible any other way? God assured Joseph through His angel that this pregnancy was all part of God’s redemptive plan for humanity. With this message in mind, Joseph takes Mary as his wife.
As Mary’s due date approaches, an announcement from the government squashes any plans of a quiet home birth surrounded by family and friends. Instead, Mary and Joseph must take the seven day journey to Bethlehem, the town of Joseph’s heritage, to be taxed by the Roman government.
This trip must have been brutal for the couple as Joseph walked slowly along the path leading a small donkey carrying a swollen and sore Mary.
As the journey continued, the contractions began. Given the stress of the recent tax law and the arduous journey, it was no surprise that Mary was thrown into labor. But now? Joseph, while trying to stay calm for Mary’s sake, began to urge the donkey onward to Bethlehem.
As they entered the bustling town, Joseph led Mary from one relative’s house to the other, but their homes were already full. He tried the inns, but there were no beds available. As the contractions began to quicken and Mary doubled over in pain, one innkeeper quickly offered the couple the stable out back.
Between contractions, Joseph helped Mary to a small, dark stable carved into the rock behind the inn. The place smelled of sweaty animals and damp hay, but the couple didn’t even notice.
Once they were settled, it didn’t take long for Jesus to make His way into the world. As Joseph placed the sweet, squirming babe on Mary’s chest, a tear slipped down her cheek as she wondered at her Savior who had just entered into the world.
Mary and Joseph cuddled sweet Jesus as relief flooded their hearts. He was here, and he was safe.
After Jesus was fed, Joseph could see that Mary needed to rest as the long journey and the birth had been hard on her small body. He gently picked up baby Jesus as Mary dozed, wrapped him in a piece of swaddling cloth, and laid him gently in the feeding trough. In that moment, Joseph wish that he had had time to build a beautiful crib for his sweet Savior in his carpenter’s workshop, but this manger was the best that he could do. He quietly promised in his heart that when they returned home, he would build Jesus a bed that was fit for a king.
As Joseph tended to his sweet wife and new babe, a ruckus outside alarmed him. He could see in the distance a group of rag-tag shepherds running through the streets and knocking on doors, asking if anyone had a new baby born in their stable that night. One innkeeper said yes and pointed them in Joseph’s direction.
Joseph stood up, ready to protect his family at all costs, as the rough-looking group hurried towards him.
“Excuse me! Sir!” one shouted. “Was a child born here just a few hours ago?”
“Why do you ask?” Joseph replied cautiously.
“Sir! We were just out in our fields, minding our own business, when all of the sudden this . . . THING appeared in the sky!” the shephered recounted, breathlessly.
“Yes!” said another. “He said that our Savior, the one we have waited for our whole lives, was born tonight! Here! In some stable in Bethlehem. He told us to leave immediately and find this Jesus. As soon as he shared this message, the whole sky lit up with these . . . angels I guess you could call them . . . they began singing the most glorious song we’ve ever heard!”
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!Luke 2:14
“After they left, we came straight here!” added the third.
Joseph stood stunned and the men’s story. Angels? A sky full of them? Singing about the birth of this baby? It seemed too incredible to be true and yet . . . here were the shepherds, eagerly searching for their Savior.
Joseph stepped aside so that they could pass into the stable. They piled in and crowded around Mary who now sat, holding the baby. The silence was palpable as the shepherds gazed in wonder at this perfect child with his ten tiny fingers and ten perfect toes nestled comfortably against his mother.
“So its true,” one whispered. “The wait is over and our Redeemer is here just like the prophets said.”
There, in that quiet stable, with a beautiful star shining overhead, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds worshipped Adonai in their hearts. God had kept his promise that He had made so long ago when, because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, pain and wrongdoing had entered the world.
Mary knew that this sweet baby had a special plan to redeem her. She knew that eventually He would sacrifice His life for her and for the world. But her Jesus was powerful, and He would rise from the dead three days later having won the battle over Satan. The gift of a restored relationship with God and eternal life would be offered to all those who chose to accept His gift.
But for now, Mary soaked in this quiet moment surrounded by her husband and these shepherds, and she marveled at God’s love for a world so broken.
Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.Luke 2:19
This is the Christmas story, although I hesitate to call it a story because that gives one the impression that it is all made up. Instead, let’s called it the Christmas account.
I think John 3:16 sums up God’s plan in the best way possible. Let me paraphrase. God loves you and I (the whole world for that matter!) so much that He was willing to send His only Son as the final perfect sacrifice. Whoever believes this message won’t endure eternal separation from God. Instead, they will enjoy a restored relationship that will last for all of eternity.
I hope that you will consider God’s greatest gift this Christmas season.