For many of us the story is familiar. For others it may introduce us to a new set of characters.
Dr. Luke, the writer of the gospel of Luke, tells us the story of Jesus Christ entering the world in the little town of Bethlehem. This child is born to the virgin Mary who has traveled to Bethlehem with her husband Joseph because of a new law by Caesar Augustus off in Rome requiring everyone to return to the home of their ancestors to register their citizenship.
But amazingly this political decision brings about the fulfillment of a prophecy in the Old Testament book of Micah. (Micah 5:2)
The prophet 700 hundred years earlier declared the Savior of the world will be born in Bethlehem. So, Mary and Joseph arrive in Bethlehem, a several days journey from their home in Nazareth, just as the pains of childbirth begin. The God of creation is very specific about this and dozens of other statements to assure us that this child, born in a crude stable, is his son, sent into our world to be the Savior for all of humanity.
Maybe it is good that Christmas comes near the end of the year. A time we tend to review all the activity of the year and usually seem to recount the bad stuff that has happened. We also begin to consider plans to make the new year a better experience. But as we approach this reassessing season we celebrate a baby born in a stable 2,000 years ago. Yes, I understand that some people don’t want to call it Christmas, and certainly the extravagance of the season has come a long way from the stable of Bethlehem. But, we wouldn’t have the celebration if there had not been a Christ child.
Back to the story, Luke tells us this is reason for celebration. In chapter 2, verses 10 and 11 it says God sends angels to tell the news to a group of shepherds watching their sheep at night. The angels proclaim “we bring you good news of great joy that is for everyone.” Sounds like a reason for a celebration. So, the angels go on. “Today a Savior has been born, he is Christ the Lord.”
The shepherds go check out the details, find them exactly as they were told, and experience the source of joy. Through out the Christmas season we plan events and activities to find this elusive experience of joy. We long to see it in the faces of our children or grand children as they open their gifts. We plan more extravagant parties, hoping we will find it in the atmosphere or abundance of food. For way too many of us what we mostly end up with is a dismal checkbook or credit card statement which are both a long way from the joy we sought.
We need what the shepherds found. Joy isn’t so much found in a gift or a party but in a person, a Savior, who wants to be our Savior and he is Christ the Lord.
Perhaps this Christmas season you want to check out the story further for yourself. Read the story in Luke chapter 2.
Attend a celebration at one of the churches in the region and look to understand who the infant truly is, the source of joy.