Today: 24 July 2014
 
 

  

Christmas 


We give gifts because we
have received One

I Googled ‘Christmas’ and found a quiz, which I decided to take, thinking it was a rare chance to do well. But I didn’t even know the answer to the first question at the ‘novice’ level: the names of all Santa’s reindeer!

Next, I found a load of sites guaranteeing to take the stress out of my ‘holiday’ shopping.

Then I clicked on a definition of Christmas: I discovered that it is a period in December, a verb (‘We Christmassed in Manhattan’), and the time when Jesus was born.

At last! A mention of Jesus. It’s no wonder that, when I was doing youth work a couple of years ago, a teenager asked me, in all seriousness, if Christmas was when Jesus got married to Mary. What on earth has happened to Christmas?

So here’s what it really is. From the word itself, we can see that Christmas is the mass of Christ—the celebration of when Jesus came into the world.

Joseph of Nazareth was a very ordinary man, a carpenter, but also a direct descendent of all the big names in the Bible: Abraham, David, and Solomon, to name but a few. He was probably middle-aged, and was engaged to be married to the much younger Mary, a virgin.

An angel, Gabriel, appeared to Mary and told her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and she would have a son, to be called Jesus, who ‘will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High… He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end.’ (Luke [NT]).

Needless to say, Mary was a bit overwhelmed. But imagine poor Joseph! His supposedly virgin fiancée was pregnant with a child that wasn’t his. He decided to separate from Mary (quietly, to save her any public disgrace). However, an angel appeared to Joseph and explained what was going on, so he stayed with her.

Meanwhile, Caesar Augustus called a census of the entire Roman Empire, including occupied lands. Everyone had to go back to their home town to be counted. Being a descendent of David, Joseph headed for Bethlehem with the heavily pregnant Mary. After struggling to find somewhere to stay for the night, they were offered a stable—where Mary gave birth to Jesus.

Hosts of angels appeared in the night sky, frightening the shepherds in the fields, but the angels reassured them and told them what was happening. So the shepherds set off, found it all just as the angels had said, and praised God.

If you’d have liked a story with palaces, power and crowns (and one in the eye for the Romans), so would the Jews—who were hoping for a different kind of saviour. But Jesus came in humility; born in a barn, watched over by cows, visited by poor shepherds. This set the tone for his ministry: of focus on God (not earthly riches or power), and a perfect model of servanthood.


Explore this subject in more depth

Pray: Father, forgive us for the way the birth of Christ has been turned into a commercial festival. Help us to celebrate your Son’s birth with humility, awe and gratitude. Thank you for loving us so much that you would stoop so low as to become one of us. Amen.

Watch Google Earth Christmas, from the gospel of Luke

Read from the Bible how Mary heard from the angel

Smile: Watch a nativity set talking amongst themselves

Watch an animation clip of the Christmas story

Hear the Christmas story read by children as they arrange a nativity scene

Read from the Bible about the birth of Jesus

Watch the video clip Humble Beginnings

Watch the video clip There’s no Christmas Without You

Read about the meaning of Christmas

Watch the music video Mary Did You Know?

Smile: watch a Lego nativity movie made by a 10-year-old boy (allow a few moments- ignore any error messages)

Listen to the WOW! Christmas CD (click on tracks to hear samples)

 


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