Summary: Personal Reflections on the meaning of Christmas
Christmas has always been my most favorite time of the year. With everything that has happened this year that seems to cast a cloud over this holiday, I still have a reason to praise God this holiday season. As you consider everything that has happened in your life in 2009 and what you are expecting God to do for you in 2009, you too should be rejoicing with me today. You see, it is not about the presents, the food and all of the decorations; it is about the one eternal gift that God gave us when He sent Jesus to this earth. We’ve all heard the stories and we have seen the movies relating to the real meaning of Christmas but I tell you this morning, unless you understand the truth with your heart, you will never fully understand the fullness of the gift that God has given us.
I often think about all of the Christmas’s I’ve had as a child and with all of my memories, I realize that back then, even though I knew the real meaning of Christmas, it still came down to the presents, the decorations and the food. I never thought about or considered the level of stress and anxiety that my parents must have felt as they tried to ensure that we had presents on Christmas morning. Some of you understand what I am talking about. There are many people who spend most of the next year paying for Christmas presents that they could not afford to buy the year before. This is done out of the desire to make their kids Christmas the best. I was talking to my sister this week and she shared with me that while she was going through some of my father’s things, she found a receipt from where my parents had brought us Christmas presents in 1964. This receipt was for 2 bicycles and one tricycle. They had purchased these gifts for approximately $74. They could not afford to pay for it so they placed the items on lay-away. Remember when your family purchased things on a lay-away plan? Most stores did away with their lay-away plans, but some are bringing them back with our current economy. I do not know how long it took them to pay for these three gifts but I do know that back in 1964, $74 was a lot of money, especially for my parents. As most kids do, my thoughts during those times were primarily focused on what I was receiving. As I got older, my thoughts remained the same, but I also began to consider what I could give others, especially those who I knew were getting me something. Imagine my anxiety when Christmas Eve came and someone gave me a present that I was not expecting and they had this expectant look on their face for the present they thought I had gotten them. Ever been there? Today it does not mean anything to me. I have everything that I need so to receive a present is not the focused of my holiday anymore. I am old now and a parent of almost grown children. I understand now what my parents when through each Christmas. Although they enjoyed Christmas, they never seemed to be as excited about getting presents as we were. Now I understand why, it was not about the presents.
Luke 2:7-12 records the following: “And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manager because there was no room for them in the inn. In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people. For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manager.” (NAS)
We think of Christmas as the time of year for giving because God gave to us a very special gift – His Son Jesus Christ. Although we celebrate Christmas in December, Jesus was not born in the winter; He was born in the spring (based on the fact that shepherds would not have been out in the fields at night with their flocks during the winter.) The celebration of His birth today is nothing like what it was on the night He was born. No one brought presents; the only gift that was given was the gift God gave to mankind. Despite what we may have seen on TV or in the movies, the shepherds did not bring presents to Christ. Once they received the information from the angel, they immediately left to go and find Jesus. They did not take time to go shopping for the perfect gift. They did not roam from store to store looking for the best sales price. They were not worried about if their presents would be acceptable. They did not worry about none of this because it was not important. They went to receive, not to give. They dropped what they were doing and went looking for Christ. Now I know for a fact that some of you might be thinking about the three wise men. On most nativity scenes you find them standing and looking at the baby Jesus as they hold their gifts in their hands. However, when you study the Scriptures closely, you find that the three wise men were not at the manager when Christ was born and actually did not find Christ until He was almost 2 years old. Turn to Matthew the second chapter.