We try in many ways to catch the Christmas spirit with revelry, feasts, family reunions, gifts, and many more. For many, these bring only temporary enjoyment. Some experience a letdown and even get depressed, as the reality of daily life and the bills from overspending come after the holidays. For others who just experienced all kinds of losses, Christmas makes the loss more pronounced and painful. This Christmas, it is good to refocus and reflect on that first Christmas to learn how the coming of Jesus meets our deepest needs.
Prophesied about hundreds of years before, the first Christmas was a much-awaited event by the Jews. The Messiah, the Anointed One, was expected to set things right for them and lead them to become the people they were meant and created to be. Details surrounding Jesus’ birth were too specific to confirm that Jesus was the Messiah they were waiting for. His virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14), his birthplace (Micah 5:2), his Davidic lineage (2 Samuel 7:16; Jeremiah 23:5), his going to Egypt for a time (Hosea 11:1), and the killing of innocent children in an attempt to murder him (Jeremiah 31:15) were all accurately fulfilled. But more than these, there were over 300 prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection that established his claims of being God Incarnate.
With such overwhelming and proven credentials (including the miracles he performed and his resurrection after three days) not just as Israel’s Messiah, but as the “good news of great joy for all the people,” Jesus shattered the prevailing preconceived expectations!
Jesus came as a helpless baby. If he was going to save humanity, he needed to go through the full range of the human experience, including birth and death. His suffering and death were unthinkable, more than most of us would ever experience. His being fully human, not just being fully God, makes it difficult for us to ever say to him, “You do not know what I am going through!” He conquered it all and did not sin! He simply says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30.
Jesus lived humbly. He was born in a borrowed stable among animals. He was raised by an ordinary carpenter and a virgin who agreed and cooperated with God, and lived with brothers and sisters in a large family. In his short earthly life, Jesus identified with the poor, welcomed the humble, lowly, willing, and those who knew they did not measure up. He went out of his way for the blind beggar, the rejected Samaritan woman, the despised tax collector, the repentant prostitute, the children. He welcomed them and offered them hope, forgiveness, and love. “For this is what the high and exalted One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite'” Isaiah 57:15.
Jesus’ birth was made known to plain shepherds who were watching over their sheep. Some studies say that these sheep were temple flocks meant for sacrifice. If so, God must have wanted these lowly shepherds to have a first-hand experience of what their job actually pointed to – the real “Lamb of God” who was just born. They were awed by this Child that they broadcasted widely what they had witnessed. When one encounters and experiences Jesus, one cannot help but tell others about him!
Jesus’ birth was recognized by “wise men from the east.” These learned men were aware of the star associated with the coming “king of the Jews” and they travelled far to seek him and pay him homage. [See bethlehemstar.com for a study on this phenomenon]. God speaks to us in his creation, through the prophets, in the Scriptures, and best of all in Jesus Christ! It would be wise to seek and take notice of how he has been speaking to you and me.
In the same way that the Jews missed the Messiah, we too might miss out on the real essence of Christmas. Christmas may have become too busy and hectic, giving no time to seek and honor Him, which leaves us empty. Maybe we need to have contrite and humble hearts, set out to seek Him, and have a first-hand encounter and experience of the Christ of Christmas! (To be Continued)