Summary: The birth of Christ takes on new significance when we see Christmas through heaven’s eyes.
Christmas Through Heaven’s Eyes
Did you here the news? Christmas has been canceled . . . in Bethlehem. Because of the violence and fighting between the Palestinians and Israeli forces, officials in the west bank city of Bethlehem just south of Jerusalem have announced that the traditional festivities at the Church of the Nativity will not be held this year. How ironic!
Actually there was no Christmas celebration 2000 years ago either. Most people didn’t have a clue about the eternal drama that was being played out in the quiet streets of Bethlehem.
Steve Brown radio preacher tells of a famous painting by Brueghel entitled The Census. It is a picture of Bethlehem on Christmas Eve two thousand years ago. The painting captures the scene of busy village filled to overflowing with visitors called to town for the Roman Census. In the center of the painting is a government booth and flowing from it a long line of tired travelers waiting their turn to fill out the imperial papers commanded by Augustus Caesar. If you look close you can see all kinds of people, rich and poor, young and old, powerful leaders and minor servants. They have all returned to the City of David to be counted. But down in the lower right corner of the picture almost out of site and sure to be overlooked by the casual viewer, just barely visible is a man tugging on a donkey and on top of the donkey a very pregnant woman.
We know the story. Few others did that night. Christmas is a lot like that for many of us, certainly for many of our pre-Christian friends and neighbors. Christmas is a busy time, probably the busiest of the entire year. It is easy to loose sight of the one thing that gives it meaning.
Not seeing what we should can be a problem. Did you hear the one about the guy who decided instead of coming home from work on Friday night he would cash his paycheck and take an unannounced weekend fishing trip with his buddies? He didn’t even call home. His wife waited all weekend, worrying and wondering where he was.
Finally he drug himself in late Sunday night having had too little sleep and too much to drink. As you might expect his very angry spouse had a few words for him. She laid into him. For two hours she let him have it with a barrage of words that befitted his thoughtless behavior.
Finally she stopped the tirade and simply asked him, “How would you like it if you didn’t see me for two or three days.”
A bit peeved at the angry reception he has received, the husband simply replied, “That would be fine with me!”
Monday went by and he didn’t see his wife. Tuesday and Wednesday came and went with the same results. Come Thursday, the swelling went down just enough where he could see her a little out of the corner of his left eye!!
Hopefully, it won’t take quite so drastic measures for us to begin to see Christmas with fresh eyes. That’s my purpose in the next three sermons all from John chapter 1. As you recall only two of the four Gospels (the first four books of the New Testament which tell the life and teachings of Jesus) relate the events surrounding Jesus’ birth. Each of the Gospels provides a different perspective or vantage point on the life of Jesus—including his birth.
Matthew tells the Christmas story through Joseph’s eyes. Luke provides Mary’s perspective. In a sense, Mark’s Gospel looks at Jesus through the eyes of the first disciples, Peter in particular. The result is no Christmas story. Mark just begins with the events surrounding the first time the disciples saw Jesus. John’s Gospel, probably the last written, provides what I want to call a Heaven’s Eye View of Jesus’ birth.
What was heaven’s perspective on Christmas? What did heaven see, maybe the angels, in the events of Jesus’ birth? What did heaven see that inn keepers, kings, even wise men and shepherds didn’t understand? I think John tells us and in so doing provides an explanation of what it all means.
What it means is the important part. John’s Gospel differs from the other three in a number of ways. He emphasizes different events and teachings and generally follows a different story line. Why? There may be many answers but the main one is John’s purpose. He states it clearly toward the end of the book, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:30 through John 20:31 (NIV)).