Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Christmas Story

I don’t know many people who don’t love The Christmas Story. No, I’m not referring to the movie but to the actual birth of Jesus. It’s a remarkable story that’s inspiring and uplifting. Think about it. Two young people, Joseph and his betrothed, pregnant, and future wife, Mary, are forced to travel across the country to the place of Joseph’s lineage for a census commanded by the Roman emperor, Augustus. Because Joseph was a descendent of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem, the place prophesied for centuries as the birthplace of the Savior.

Because there was no room for them in the Inn, they sought refuge in a cave. After the child, Jesus, was born, they lay him in a manger, which is a feeding trough for animals (such humble beginnings, parents of little means, against all odds). They helped bring forth the miracle of miracles. Who wouldn’t love the baby Jesus?

Luke 2: 8 – 14. 8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth, goodwill toward men!

I think we’re all on board when it comes to good tidings and great joy. As far as peace on earth and goodwill toward men, who wouldn’t want that? The baby Jesus and the Christmas story offer hope and redemption for mankind. Sounds good. But there is a slight problem to the story. The baby Jesus grew up to be Jesus the man. He brought forth a profound message, a Gospel, a way to live our lives. Did he not? Jesus made it clear that we are our brother’s keeper. He told us to put God first in all things and to put others ahead of our interests. Although we may agree with this message in principle and on a theological and philosophical plain, applying it to our daily lives in a practical manner presents challenges to say the least.

There is a cost to following Jesus, the man. Most of us, including even Christians, have come to a conclusion in one way or another that applying the principles that Jesus taught has an enormous down side when it comes to achieving what one wants in life. Frankly, there’s just no percentage in putting other people first. It’s not that we don’t care about our fellowman or care about our society in general. If you want to get ahead in life or work, you have to think about you first. And that’s the whole problem with Jesus’ message. The Christmas story and the baby Jesus aren’t hard to embrace, but when it comes to Jesus, the man, that’s a whole different matter.

To put it in simple terms, Jesus wants us to be “good hearted” and sensitive to the people around us. When you see a need, you meet it. When something needs to be done, you pitch in. That means you’re going to be unconvinced and, perhaps, taken advantage of from time to time. It’s easy to just adopt the attitude “I just don’t want to be bothered”. Does being good hearted cut it in the world we live in? Most of us don’t want to be run over whether that’s in business or live in general.

So following Jesus and his teachings may very well mean that you won’t get to live in the house that you desire or drive an expensive luxury car, or take the vacations you want or even send your kids to a private, expensive school. So at this time of the year when we think about the Christmas story and the baby Jesus, maybe we can take a look at the bigger picture. Celebrating Jesus is much more than having an excuse for a holiday on December 25. It’s a way of life that must define your existence as a person; otherwise, Christmas means absolutely nothing!

I know it’s easier to think about good tidings, peace on earth and all of that. But good will toward men is going to start with you and with me and how we decide to live our lives. It’s something to think about. The Christmas story is more about Jesus the man than just Jesus the baby.

P. S. Remember that Jesus was born as a man on earth to ultimately give his life as a man to redeem us and reconcile us to God. I think living out his principles is the least we can do in return.

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