Summary: What did God have in mind by giving us the first Christmas?
A couple of years ago on America’s Funniest Home Videos, a young boy was shown on Christmas morning. He came down to see a large present beside the tree and ran over to tear it open to see what was inside. The paper went flying and suddenly he broke into a dance and jumped around the room saying, “Wow! Just what I wanted! I really love it. Wow!” After awhile he went over to look at it again and said with a puzzled look on his face, “What is it?”
On that first Christmas the angels announced the birth of a new child. The heavens were opened and all the company of heaven broke into praise. Shepherds went racing to Bethlehem to see what it was all about. And for two thousand years we have been jumping up and down saying, “Just what I wanted! Exactly what I needed!” But in the next breath we look again inside the stable and ask, “What is it?” We are puzzled by God’s gift. They didn’t understand it then, and we are still trying to understand it now.
In the last few Sundays we have attempted to see Christmas through the eyes of Mary and Joseph, through the eyes of the shepherds and wise men, and the eyes of the world, but today we want to get a different perspective and see Christmas through the eyes of God. Christmas was not easy for God. So often we feel like God has it made. We can’t imagine him having any problems. Nothing troubles him. But when we read the Bible we see humanity rejecting God time after time. He created mankind as an object of his love, but from the very start that love has been spurned. From the beginning of his attempt to have fellowship with his creation he has met with rejection.
The prophet Isaiah wrote: “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not... We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:1-3,6). The images of God that the Bible paints for us are shocking. In Hosea he is the betrayed husband seeking his unfaithful lover over and over again (Hosea 1-3). In Luke he is the anxious Father who watches for his sinful and rebellious child to return home. He is the Shepherd who searches for the wandering, lost sheep (Luke 15).
Jesus mirrored God’s emotions over his lost children as he wept over Jerusalem. We hear him saying as he longs and weeps for his people, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34).
It was not easy for God to give us Christmas. It was not easy for Christ. It was not easy to keep loving and coming after a creation that had continually betrayed him and rejected his love — nailing it to a cross. The Christmas story is not as cute as it is terrible and profound. A child born to die. A child destined for suffering, abuse and misunderstanding. A child whose very life was in danger shortly after his birth.
It wasn’t easy to be the Savior of a world that does not want to be saved. The world showed its distaste for a Savior from the very beginning. Give the world someone to talk to when they have problems. Give the world a wonderful story. Give it beautiful holidays, but don’t give it a Savior — a Savior that will actually save them from their real problem — real sin. God’s gift of a Savior makes us face the truth about ourselves. It disturbs us to have someone tell us we are wrong. Save our economy, save our nation, save our children, but don’t talk about saving us from our sin.
It was into that hostile atmosphere God sent his infant Son, and left him unprotected. He allowed the world to do with him as it pleased. The apostle John tells the Christmas story in these words: “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:9-12).