Summary: Christmas is more than tinsel and bows, it is the birth of our Savior and what He has given to us.
Christmas Is More Than A Feeling
So much of Christmas has been hijacked by popular cultural and transformed into something it was never meant to be. For anyone who has ever read the Christmas story it is quite apparent that all of the trappings that are considered "musts" for modern-day Christmas fans were not even given a thought while Mary was laboring to give birth to the soon coming King.
Just to give you an idea of what I am talking about I want to invite you to imagine with me for a moment. Let's take the story told by Matthew and Luke and overlay "Christmas 1997" as we know it. Bethlehem remains crowded just as it was in the day of Jesus' birth, but this time the crowds have gathered for different reasons. There is no census to be taken, there are sales to take advantage of as shoppers hustle through the Bethlehem Mall trying to find those remaining gifts yet to be conquered. The streets of Bethlehem are lined with tinseled ornaments draped over each corner light post. A platoon of Salvation Army ringers ring the city celebrating each coin deposited into their kettles. Just outside of the stable where Mary labored without the luxury of an epidural are displays of twinkling lights, cutouts of Santa's workshop complete with knee-high elves, and plastic figurines of the blessed mother and her Son with fifty-watt bulbs inside to illuminate them against the backdrop of night. Choirs of carolers break through the noise of Christmas with their tributes to Jesus, Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus, and Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer. Just as the baby is born all join together in singing Joy To The World. Only then do they retire to the dining room for a big Christmas dinner and a ballgame just for fun.
Boy, have times changed! Christmas, as we know it, is a time of credit cards, caroling, cranberry sauce, and celebrations without end. The first Christmas was something altogether different. Christmas was a time of crisis. Stop and think about it for a minute. The months leading up to Christmas were some of the most difficult days that Joseph and Mary had ever faced in their lives. Mary was found to be pregnant before she was even married. That was something "good girls" just didn't do. Oh, Mary knew the angel had told her that God had blessed her womb with the King of all creation, but he had failed to tell all of the people of Nazareth. Mary was the talk of the town, but they weren't calling her the Blessed Mother, they were calling her a slut. After enduring months of ridicule and humiliation she was now told that she had to go to Bethlehem with her husband Joseph -- a ninety mile ride on the back of a luxurious donkey. Hey, at least it had leather seats. When they arrived in the small town there were unbelievable crowds of folks who had gathered from all over for the census and Joseph had forgotten to call ahead. As a result of Joseph's oversight all of the Holiday Inns were booked...they couldn't even find a Motel 6. Mary labored for hours on a bed of hay with attendants of cows, sheep, and pigs until finally her labor ended and her Son was born.
The crisis was over. Not so fast. Mary didn't even have time to toilet train Jesus before an angel of God appeared to Joseph and said, "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." (Matthew 2:13)
For Mary the crisis didn't end in Egypt as she watched her Son, whom she knew to be the Promised Messiah, ridiculed, rejected, and reviled all of His days. Mary faced her greatest crisis as she stood at the foot of an old, battered wooden cross and heard her son cry out, "Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing" before He drew His last breath and died.
Christmas is more than a celebration my friend. Christmas is continuing to believe in the miracle of Christmas morning, the coming of our Savior, in the midst of our crisis-filled life. You see, today in our society, Christmas is all about feelings. Not a day goes by that we don't hear somebody say, "I just don't feel like it is Christmas." Christmas is not a feeling it is a fact. I don't know when it happened, but somewhere along the way somebody slipped in under the cover of night and replaced the fact of Jesus' birth for the feelings of Christmas. This is the greatest heist ever pulled off in the history of the world.