As the season of Advent begins, I wanted to “rethink Christmas,” looking at the story of God’s salvation plan—the story of Jesus from creation to His birth, from Genesis to the Gospels—from different perspectives and ask ourselves some poignant questions. To start, have you ever considered the holiday as our opportunity to testify to our faith?
The other day in my Bible study class, we discussed Christmas decorations and how so many have Santa and reindeer on their lawn instead of a Nativity, star, or angel—something that truly represents our celebration. It’s time we put our faith out there—yes even on the lawn! I actually have a cross on my front lawn. When you drive up to my garage you can’t miss it. It’s there year round. It’s one of my ways to make a statement about who and whose I am. Now I’m not saying that having a Santa on your lawn is bad—I like Santa as much as the next “good little girl or boy”! However, is Christmas about Santa or Jesus? What message do we want to send to a world that is in desperate need of the hope, joy, love, and peace that is born on Christmas Day? What do we want to teach our children? Jesus is the greatest gift of all!
Now, have you ever really thought what it must have been like for Mary? Read Luke 1:26-38.
She’s going about her young life, betrothed to a man named Joseph, and things are going along just fine. Then in an instant, God took whatever plans Mary had for her life and turned them upside down and inside out. Through the angel Gabriel God told her that she was going to have a baby; it didn’t matter that she was a virgin—yep, gonna have a baby. This had to be hard to hear on so many different levels, but nonetheless, Mary essentially said, “Sure, whatever you want God.” Good thing, Mary, because God wasn’t asking. This is another case of God knowing her heart. He knew she was faithful, obedient, and that she loved Him. He knew that she would trust Him even in this. Mary was favored by God and God gave her one of the hardest jobs in the world—being pregnant before marriage, becoming the mother of God, and ultimately watching Him die on the cross. There is something about Mary that enables her to do this—it’s her deep, abiding love and trust for God. Do you love and trust God that much?
When we hear about the Christmas story, we extol the selfless virtues of Mary, the mother of God, but Joseph seems to be left in the shadows (Matthew 1:18-25).
I have to wonder if, in some ways, this whole idea of a virgin birth was more difficult for him to embrace than for Mary. I have to wonder if he ever had any thoughts about Mary that were less than kind. I wonder, as her belly swelled with child, if he ever resented the situation. He obviously was a kind man because he had made the decision not to make a big deal out of her pregnancy so she wouldn’t get into trouble. He would just quietly leave her. However, once the angel of the Lord came to him in a dream, called him by name, and told him what to do, he did it. There seems to be no doubt that it was the Lord who gave him this commandment. Joseph obviously was a faithful man and God knew his obedient heart. Even though he was called by God, the situation was a difficult one, but Joseph trusted God. We don’t read about any questioning/doubting thoughts from Joseph, but being human, I’d venture to guess that they were there. Even so, Joseph was faithful and willing to sacrifice his life to the will of God. Christmas is a reminder that, as we receive from God the greatest gift of all—Jesus—we are to offer Him the gift of ourselves. What would that would mean in your life, to offer yourself fully?
Finally, when we read Luke 2:8-16, the Christ child’s birth has been celebrated and the event that changed the world has been glorified once again. The question for us is this: “Has Christmas changed us?” As we read about the shepherds who were caring for their flocks being visited by the angels telling of great news, we hear the Gospel proclaimed once again. The shepherds immediately responded to the Gospel by going to see this thing that had happened. They left the comfort of their normalcy in response to the call by the angels.
How will you respond to this good news of great joy that is for all people—that is, for you?
Check out more from Rev. Deanna M. Young in her new book, Connecting the Dots: Connecting Everyday Life Experiences to Spiritual Truths, available now.