Just as quickly as Christmas came, it will all be over in a blink of an eye. For some, Christmas Day will be nothing more than a giant let-down. The day after Thanksgiving marked another year where people stood in lines for hours and hours to save a bit of money on that big-ticket item that they just couldn’t live without. When presents are opened, they realize they didn’t get the gifts they had asked for. Instead of the big-ticket item on their Christmas list, they got clothes instead. If they didn’t get everything and more they had wanted, then Christmas just didn’t matter.
The sad thing is, for some, that’s what Christmas is really all about it. The focus is put on us, on the world, and taken away from the point of Christmas: Jesus Christ, a baby born in a manger. Aside from all of the festivities, all the cards, all the songs, this one day revolves around a baby, who grew in stature, who became a man and took upon Himself the sins of us all.
It’s ironic that Jesus was born in a manger, the most non-ideal conditions for a birth, especially the birth of a King. The fact that the Savior was born in such humble surroundings and of such an unassuming mother was not meant to make us feel sorry for Him. Where do we have the time to feel sorry for Jesus anyways when we take the focus of Christmas from Him and put it on worldly things? Who has time for Jesus when we’re enjoying the gifts that wait for us under the Christmas tree? But the coming of Jesus was in line with His mission: “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” That is precisely what Jesus has come to do and that is shown in His simple birth. He was not born in great and lavish conditions. He was born in a feeding trough surrounded by animals you would find on a farm. There would be no posh palace on earth for this King. His reign on earth would be marked by humility.
Though the Savior’s birth was humble, its significance for sinners is life-changing. He comes in a manger in order to die on a cross to give you eternal life. The angels come to proclaim that this is the Savior, the one who rescues sinners from eternal death. He is the Christ, the anointed One, appointed by God for this saving work. He is the Lord, the one who is full of grace and truth, come to do what no one else could do.
The angels rightly proclaim, “Glory to God.” Even though Christ was only a tiny infant, the angels were quite correct to proclaim that His arrival already meant peace on earth, a spiritual peace between a God who demands perfection and sinners who daily fail to keep God’s commandments.
It’s incredible to think that our salvation hinges upon this little Child’s birth that we celebrate. Mary knew that Jesus was going to be important because the angel Gabriel had revealed it to her. The angels knew that Jesus was going to be important. They made it known to the shepherds out in the fields. These were a people who had heard of the promised Messiah dating all the way back to the time of the Isaiah the prophet: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”
This is who the newborn Babe in the manger is. Isaiah has described for us who Jesus is, but we don’t yet know what it is that He has come to do. Isaiah later tells us what Jesus has come to do: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”
Here there is no Santa Claus. Here there are no Christmas parties or gift giving. The only gift that matters is the Gift that God gave to His people. Here there is only the promise of a Savior. Here there is only the assurance of hope. The shepherds asked no questions, but to the angel at his word because it was the word of God. If only we did the same thing. We question everything there is about Christmas. We question the meaning behind Christmas: is it about Jesus Christ or is it about us? Is it about the gift of salvation or is it about the gifts under the tree?
Why do we make December such a month of focus on the commercialization of Christmas, somewhat on the coming of Jesus Christ, and when December 26 rolls around, we put Jesus back on the shelf until next December? Christ is present in the world year-round, not just one month of the year. He came to save us from our sins year-round, not just one month out of the year. The shepherds were forever changed by what they had seen and heard. Should it be any different for us? Shouldn’t we be forever changed by hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, of seeing the infant grow into a man, who gave His life that we might have eternal life? Does our Christmas celebration move us the same way it moved Mary and the shepherds? If not, why doesn’t it? Could it be because our celebration is focused on the wrong gift?
The promise of the Messiah in the Old Testament is fulfilled. The Word was made flesh in the form of an infant, and that Word made flesh died so that the gates of heaven are opened for sinners. Here is Jesus, our Savior, the Anointed One, and our Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.