And she brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger;
because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were shepherds out in the field keeping watch over their flock by night.
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them
and they were filled with great fear.
And the angel said to them,
"Fear not, for behold" I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men."
Recently, on social media, a friend posted a photo of a neighbor's house elaborately decorated for the holidays, commenting that the owner, "goes all out for Christmas!" as indicated by the array of lights and displays. My response to this friend, was a GIF image of Will Ferrell in the movie Elf, screaming for joy at the top of his voice, "Oh my God! Christmas is coming!"
Yes. Christmas is coming! And because it is, we are keenly aware of the anticipation and joy of the season. We hear the Christmas music. We see the decorations displayed on houses and businesses. We breathe in the smell of pine trees, cold air, and cookies baking in the oven - all of which, usher in, the hope and the meaning of this special time of year.
But regarding the holiday, its meaning and the date, it is worthy to acknowledge that Christmas, as a remembrance of the birth of the Christ Child and Savior, only came about, after a historical "tug of war" between the Roman Catholic Church and pagan traditions; when in the fifth century A.D. the Roman Catholic Church chose December 25th to be celebrated as the birth of the Savior, with hopes to absorb pagan traditions. It only took about three hundred years, but the date was eventually recognized as the date of Christ's birth, replacing previous traditions.
And while establishing a date to honor the birth of the Christ Child was fraught with resistance from pagan traditions, the actual birth of Jesus, while awaited for by many, was surrounded by a much greater opposition, from kings who feared the usurping of their throne.
Just about the time Jesus was expected to be born, his parents, Mary and Joseph had to travel to another town to be counted for a census. Then, after an exhausting journey, Mary went into labor. Being in a place where no one knew them, finding accommodations for the birth of their baby, was ... slim to none.
But thankfully, a local innkeeper gave them lodging -- if you want to call spending the night in the barn with animals, lodging. Because there were no other options, they accepted the offer, and made do in the barn, with the cows, and the pigs, the horses and the sheep, the dogs and the cats, the chickens, and the mice.
Somehow, this host of animals, were most comforting. Intuitively, they understood that a birth was immanent, so they kept Mary and Joseph company, and willingly gave up their hay beds and their troughs to accommodate the couple as they waited for the arrival of their child. And oh, what an arrival it was!
Outside the barn, the night sky was filled with a beautiful light from a very bright star! And then, there were caravans of people and kings showing up, riding on the backs of camels, bringing food and gifts, to the new born baby, who everybody said was a king! It was all very exciting!
But the excitement of this new baby did not last long. News began to spread that King Herod had heard about Jesus. And upon hearing the rumor that this baby was a king, he panicked, fearing his throne would be taken over by this "baby king".
Feeling tremendous pressure to protect his throne, he implemented a plan to make sure this baby would not live. Enforcing a law to put to death all baby boys under the age of two, he wanted to be sure that this baby, identified as a king, did not live to take over his throne!
But Mary and Joseph had been warned in a dream, about Herod. So they quickly left town with their baby, and went to Egypt, where they would be safe. They lived in Egypt for about twenty years.
Herod was not the only figure in history who responded with fear and a sense of threat to his power, as a result of this baby born in Bethlehem. Our current culture reveals the violence and aggression toward those who have pledged their allegiance to that baby, named Jesus. We also know the stories of so many, who have been threatened and persecuted, yet willing to sacrifice their lives, for their faith in this One named Jesus, who willingly did the same for all of humanity.
Poet C.W. Kennedy describes this sacrificial love of the Savior as his passion for humanity, who at the age of 33 hastens himself to the cross, mounting it as a knight would dash into the fray, and nailed there, sustained in a battle for sinners against the Enemy.
Yes, that little baby born in Bethlehem, not only changed lives, but also changed culture. And more than two thousand years later, the birth of that little baby is still changing both lives and culture.
So, yes. This is Christmas. And don't be surprised if, maybe in light of the reason for the season, you might want to "Go all out for Christmas!" You might even get so excited, you want to scream, at the top of your voice, "Oh my God, Christmas is here!"
Wishing you all the rich blessings of Christmas and the love of that baby born in Bethlehem... You know... the One that loves you most... Who changed your life and mine.
Paulette Jackson, LPC-MHSP