Summary: Because we cannot ascend to God (which is attempted during the Christmas season), God descends to us, and gives us meaning and joy.
Luke 2:1-20 Look Into The Face of Christ, and See the Heart of God.
Of all the holidays during the calendar year, both secular and religious, I would describe Christmas as a high-effort holiday. We have lots of low-effort holidays, like Memorial Day or Labor Day. How much effort do those holidays require? Hardly any. In fact, you celebrate those holidays by putting forth no effort – not working – just eating, maybe having a cookout. We have middle-effort holidays, like the Fourth of July. There’s some decorating – maybe you put out a flag. Maybe you go to a parade, or take your kids to see the fireworks – medium effort. But then there’s Christmas, a high-effort holiday. It requires the most decorations, the most shopping and gift exchanging. There’s the food, the school Christmas program – a high effort holiday.
But Christmas isn’t all about decorations and gifts, and most people know that. Most people know that Christmas is about something deeper, something more meaningful than a bobble-head doll sitting under a plastic evergreen tree. But what’s it all about? You hear the same things every year – it’s all about family, it’s all about kindness and charity, it’s all about loving and giving to others. And you and I both know that there’s something wrong with that kind of thinking – those are year-round things – to love your family, to be kind and charitable and generous to others – that’s not just for Christmas, that’s something we do all year-round. There must be something more.
Christmas is that one time in the year when people make an extra effort to find real meaning, real joy in their lives. This is when many people make an effort to look into the heart of God. “Maybe this is the year,” people think, “when I will be able to finally see God, finally understand God, and find real joy and meaning in my life. Maybe this is the year, when I will be able to get a glimpse of who God really is, and how that affects my life.” Consciously or subconsciously, most people, this time of the year, are trying to catch a glimpse of God.
Imagine the world at the time Jesus was born. Imagine what Mary saw. The world was very busy – most people were traveling to their hometowns to register to be taxed by Caesar. Mary was one of those people. So much hustle and bustle – everyone is busy. There are so many travelers, that Mary and Joseph have to spend the night in a stable, and there Mary gives birth to Jesus. But no one really notices, no one really cares. It’s not that people are uninterested in God. It’s just that to most people, a poor couple in a stable having a baby has nothing to do with God.
The world hasn’t changed much, has it? It’s still a hustle and bustle place. Everyone is busy. Does that mean that people aren’t interested in God? No. No matter how busy you are, deep down, there is a desire to look into the heart of God. That’s why there are so many religions today – people are speculating, trying to guess what’s in the heart of God. There’s a growing interest in spirituality – millions of spiritual books will be under the Christmas trees of many people this year. No matter how busy we are, we long to be touched by an angel, to look into the heart of God.
But for most, the search is unsuccessful. The spiritual book was interesting, but not the answer. The latest religion was OK at first, but confusing after awhile. The shows on TV are nice and heart-warming, but I still haven’t caught a glimpse of God.” Many people leave the holidays a little down, a little disappointed, and they don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because they were looking for God, but never found him in the places they were looking.
This evening, I want you to walk into the stable, and stand next to Mary, and see what she sees. What does Mary see? She sees a baby, but more than a baby. She remembers the promises God made about that baby. And as she recalls those promises and stares into the face of that baby, she realizes that she is staring into the heart of God.
And then the shepherds arrive, and they tell her what the angels had said to them. They crowd around the manger, and gaze into the face of that baby, and as they do, they realize that they are gazing into the heart and soul of God.
And then the shepherds leave, and Mary ponders all these things in her heart. Everything her world needs, is right here. Everything that her hustling and busting neighbors and friends could ever ask for, is lying in the manger. The key to understanding God, the key to understanding the meaning of life, the key to everything, is right here, lying in the manger.