Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 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. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” – Luke 2:8-12
What is your favorite Christmas story? I have so many! It’s a Wonderful Life is always at the top, followed by A Christmas Story. Dickens - A Christmas Carol is, of course a wonderful tradition. Not to mention, Elf, The Santa Clause, The Grinch that Stole Christmas. The list goes on and on.
I have so many wonderful memories of Christmas Eve, which I will write about later this month, but the stories our mother read were wonderful. The first one was titled Christmas at The Hollow Tree Inn, written by Albert Bigelow Paine. It’s a very old book about Mr. Coon and Mr. Possum, Mr. Crow and Mr. Dog. Of course, it has a good message about sharing and trying to make others happy and surprised. It is humorous and my brothers and sisters and I always looked forward to Mom reading it, putting in certain accents and different voices. It was a tradition.
And the most important tradition was that, last but not least, she would read the real Christmas story of Jesus’ birth – the real reason we were celebrating Christmas. Still today, that is the story that touches my heart and fills me with wonder and joy, even in this unusual Christmas season that is so different because of a pandemic. This year we won’t be going to a candlelight service at church, singing carols with a congregation, listening to the message about how God sent his Son as this tiny baby named Jesus – which means God saves. Instead, we will be watching a service virtually. Still, it is the story that counts because if it weren’t for this story, we would only have secular things that, while they are fun and mostly meaningful, they are not truly life-changing or life-giving.
Jesus’ coming to earth is so much more than just a sweet, wonderful Christmas story. If that’s all it was – just a story – we might not even know it existed today. It is so old, yet so alive and real, even now after thousands of years. God sent his Son for a reason. There are many things that are wonderful in Jesus’ teachings and miracles but he could have done those things and then died, and they too, could be forgotten by now. But the reason Jesus came was to save us from the death of sin that came between us and our perfect heavenly Father. John 3:16 tells us that God sent his Son, that whoever believes in him would not die but would have everlasting life. Jesus, full of truth and life, completely without sin, shed his own blood on the cross, giving his life for us, taking our sins upon himself, so that we would have reconciliation with God and life with him even after this life on earth is over.
And because Jesus’ Holy Spirit is upon all believers, we know that Jesus Christ is still alive! He lives within our hearts and is in our lives all the time – guiding and directing, comforting and healing, giving peace in the midst of grief, fear and chaos, giving us vision and hope for the future and for an eternal home.
If the birth of the Christ-child was just a story, this Christmas would be dreary and sad indeed, but because it is so much more than a story, told in a living Book that is the living Word of God – because he is a living, never-ending Savior, we still have much to rejoice over and to give thanks for; to hold on to when we are in deep grief or afraid.
My sister, Cindy Powell, wrote this song and my other sister, Jan Owens is playing guitar as the accompaniment. I hope you listen and will be blessed.
May the peace of Christ fill you with hope and love and joy!