Mr. and Mrs. Nudelman were on a 50th wedding anniversary trip to Paris where they
visited the Louvre. As they slowly walked past the masterpieces of the ages, Mrs. Nudelman
stopped in front of a huge Renaissance painting called, The Child In The Manger. As she
stood there, Mr Nudelman asked her why she looked so puzzled. "Don't you know what the
scene is about?" "Certainly I know what the scene shows, but I can't figure something out".
He asked, "what's to figure out?" She responded, "Here is a family living in a stable with
animals, the floor is dirt, covered with straw, and the little baby is almost naked: How could
they afford to have their picture painted?"
People do not see the same thing just because they are looking at the same thing. This is
especially true when people look at the nativity scene. A mother was explaining the scene to
her young daughter. "See, next to the manger there is a man, and his name is Joseph, and in
the manger there is a little baby, the baby Jesus, and the woman in the picture is reaching
over to pick up the child. Now who do you think she is?" The girl thought for awhile, and
then she said, "the baby-sitter." Everyone is conditioned by their own experience to see
different things in the Christmas scene. The eyes play a major role in seeing the details of
The shepherds were not sleeping, but were watching their flocks by night, and thus they
were wide awake with their eyes searching the darkness for any threat to their sheep. God
honored their caring eyes with a sight that has never been equaled. The Angel of the Lord
appeared to them, and their first response was that of terror. The radical brightness of
God's glory filled them with fear. The angel had to assure them that what they were seeing
was not a threat, but a blessing. He told them of a sign to look for; a baby wrapped in cloth
and lying in a manger. Their eyes were to be their guide to the gift of God.
Then a great company of angels appeared, filling both their eyes with glory and their ears
with praise. Their response was, let's go to Bethlehem and see. Seeing is believing, can be a
valid motto, and it was for them, for they had received a message that only the eyes could
confirm. They had to see the sign. And when they did, verse 17 says, "Having seen Him they
spread the word", and verse 20 says, "They praised God for all they had heard and seen."
The shepherds became the first eye-witnesses of the Christmas story.
The story of the wise men follows the same theme. They were not sheep watchers they
were star watchers in the night. God also bore witness to them through their eyes. They saw
the Star of Bethlehem and knew it was a sign of wonder, and that God had sent a great king
into the world. They too followed their eyes to the Christ child, and became part of the
Christmas scene, and the first eye-witnesses to the Gentile world.
The point of all of this is, God made the message of Christmas a visual message to appeal
to the eyes. Christmas from day one has always been a season for seeing. By His coming
into the world Jesus changed how men see reality. He changed how man sees God and
history, and how he sees the role of man and the goal of God. In the first stanza of a
Christmas hymn, I expressed it this way-
Before Jesus came to earth
God just seemed so far away.
But now because of His birth,
He's here with us on life's way.
Everything is different now,
Since the Lord came into view.
Before Jesus, now we bow,
For He's made everything new.
This is seen in the fact that Christmas is the season of the most radical visual changes in
the church and the culture. There is no other time of the year when we decorate the church
and see the whole community put up lights, trees and decorations. What is this massive
visual change of the environment? It is a witness to the eye-witness nature of the Christmas
The message of Christmas is, the invisible God became visible, and the eyes of man beheld
Him in the flesh. The love of God became visible in a life that could be seen. The goodness
of God was no longer only a message to the ears, but now it was a message to the eyes of
man. Again, I said it in a chorus,
God you just didn't mean maybe
When you said this world you love.
You sent us this Christmas baby
To show us how much you love.
When the shepherds saw the baby, that was the beginning of eye-witness Christianity.
The gospel, ever since, has been an appeal to the eyes. Turn your eyes upon Jesus and see
who God is; see how much He loves; see the price He pays to save you.
Every light at Christmas; every decoration; every shining piece of paper and plastic is to
shout at us, look and see. See the salvation God has given us in the gift of His dear Son.
Christmas is a holiday of the eye. It is a season of the sight where seeing is the source of our
pleasure and delight.
Let me share with you what I saw for the first time as we approach this Christmas. I saw
that I had one more baby than I thought I had. You do to. Jesus was born as the universal
baby. Whose baby was Jesus? Was He God's baby, Joseph baby, Mary's baby? Yes He was
all of those, but the Bible stresses that Jesus was born to the people He came to seek and to
save. The angel said to the shepherds, "A Savior has been born to you." Not, a Saviour has
been born to Mary and Joseph, the baby is born to you. This is the same kind of language we
see in the prophecy of Isaiah 9:6, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the
government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty
God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
The message of Christmas is not that God so loved Mary and Joseph that He gave them a
wondrous baby. Not even, God so loved Israel, He gave them a wondrous baby. The
message is, God so loved the world He gave the whole world a wondrous baby. The Christ
child is everybody's child.
There are no childless people in this world for everyone has one child born to them, the
baby of Bethlehem. Do men have a baby born to them? Yes! Do singles have a baby born to
them? Yes! Everybody that God loves has had this baby born to them, and God loves the
whole world. You can't go to anyone on this planet and say Jesus was not born to you. He
was born to all and He died for all for He is God's gift to all. I thought I only had three
babies but now I see I have four. Jesus not only died for me, He was born for me so that I
might through Him be a part of God's family. Everyone who accepts this gift of the
Christmas baby is part of the family of God. Our new birth as babes in God's kingdom
depends upon our receiving the babe of Bethlehem as our baby, born to us as our Savior. If
men do not take God's child as theirs, He will not take them as His child. The gift has to be
both given and received for the circle of love to be completed. We must receive God's Son to
be received as God's sons. John 1:12 says, "..To all who received Him, to those who believed
in His name, He gave the right to become children of God."
Christmas is a celebration of the birthday of Jesus, but also our own, for the two are
directly connected. Our birthday into the kingdom of God is directly related to our
acceptance of the gift of God, the babe of Bethlehem. The celebration of His birthday is our
acknowledgment that we too have a new birthday to celebrate because of Him. If He was
never born to us we could never be born again into the family of God. Christmas is the
celebration of His birth to us and our birth to Him.
I had not seen the Gospel in this unique way before. Like most, I saw Jesus as my Savior
from the point of view of the end of His life. But now He can be seen as Savior from the
beginning of His life. The shepherds and the wise men were likely dead by the time Jesus
went to the cross, but He was their Savior for He was born a Savior. E. H. Divall expressed
this in poetry,
God gave this gift to me-Mine own to be!
Lo, all my days
Henceforward shall be spent in living praise;
My life-my lips forever shall proclaim
His holy name.
He gave this gift to me-Mine own to be;
And I, with faith no longer cold and dim
Lift up mine eyes to look on Him
Before whom angels fall
And see in Him my all in all.
The Christmas Gospel is not complete without the death and resurrection, but anyone
who receives the babe of Bethlehem as their gift from God, accepts all that He did in life and
death as part as that gift. The baby is our Savior because of what He grew up to do for us.
This gift of baby Jesus was a physical gift. It was one that could be seen and heard and
touched. God's gift was a gift to the senses. He was Immanuel-God with us. Not just God
for us, God above us, or God around us, but God with us-as visible light. In John 1:9, we
read these amazing words, "The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the
world." Jesus gives everyone the light they need to see God's love and become a child of
God by receiving Him. The Christmas message is a visible message. It is light that can be
seen. Wise men who are looking still see it. There will be no one in history who wants to be a
child of God who will not see the light who leads them to Christ. He is not the light of Israel
only, or the light of the church only, He is the light of the world.
This should first of all make us stop complaining about all the massive decorating and
lighting the world does. You can't get too extravagant in celebrating the Savior of the world.
The world does not know it of course and decorates for it's own pleasure and profit. But for
those of us who know the gift of God, the luxurious decorations are very appropriate signs of
Him who came to give us life abundant and life eternal.
It is the season for seeing, and we are to see in all the lights and colors signs that point us
to the gift of God. A gift is a visual word. It says to the receiver- I love you. Win
Couchman, a female Bible teacher, tells of how a visible gift can say these words.
One Christmas Eve her three children had symptoms of the flu. She had to call her
parents and tell them they could not come for Christmas. It was a sad night and it took her a
long time to get to sleep. But early on Christmas morning she heard her father's truck pull
up in the yard. He had decided to bring Christmas to them. He had packages and food, and
to her surprise he had cut off the top of their Christmas tree with the star on it and brought
that along too. She cried with joy when she saw that visible expression of her father's love
and she wrote, "Oh, how like God my father was that Christmas morning. Our heavenly
Father took His dearest treasure, His star, His only begotten and entirely beloved Son, and
sent Him to us. The Son consented because He loved us and knew our great need. Heaven
went without it's chief ornament while He came to be born and live and die on earth."
If you look there are visible signs everywhere in this season of seeing. W. M. Martin is a
collector of stamps who specializes in Christmas stamps. The first ones to be issued in the
early 1930's are with a Christmas rose or poinsettia. Then in 1939 Brazil issued one with the
three wise men and Star of Bethlehem. When the U.S. came out with it's first Christmas
stamp in 1962, this popularized it and many nations followed. Today there are so many
countries that issue Christmas stamps, you can make it a hobby just to keep up on this
specialized area of collecting. My point is not to encourage stamp collecting, but to point out
just how visible the Christmas holiday is. It is depicted in the visible world of stamps as no
other event in history is.
The history of Christmas cards started earlier, back in the middle of the 1800's. At first
they were pretty but neutral. Flowers and other nature scenes were common. Then they
became more Biblical with the nativity scene. By 1880 the Christmas card exploded into a
fad. Louis Prang, a German immigrant, became the father of the American Christmas card.
He started to offer prizes of up to $2000 for the best art. This tempted even well known
painters to submit their art. By 1882, Prang was selling over five million cards in America.
Today there are hundreds of millions sold. There is no other event in history that motivates
such a visual depiction of it. The Christmas scenes have been painted and printed to be seen
by more eyes than any other event. Christmas was God's saying, see-see how much I love
you, see my nature, glory and my love. Ever since, seeing is the essence of Christmas.
The first Christmas was seen only by a few. God put just one great star in the sky, and it
was apparently visible only to the Magi. The angels that lit up the fields were only seen by
the shepherds. Caesar, the Roman senate, and the people of the Empire saw no hint that
history was changed by the birth of one tiny baby in Bethlehem. But today because of the
impact of that baby on history there is no way to escape the visible changes that announce
the celebration of His birth.
This is the season of buying and giving of presents, and even this is symbolic of the
Incarnation. All through history God had given His people love, guidance, mercy and a host
of invisible gifts. But at Christmas God gave His most visible gift. We celebrate this gift by
giving visible gifts to all whom we love. These gifts are all the more conspicuous by being
wrapped in special paper with ribbons. We make it the most visible expression of our love
that we can, because we are celebrating God's most visible expression of His love.
There is no other time of the year that we have to rearrange our homes so as to fit a tree
into it. This is a radical visible change. We do this radical thing because this is a
conspicuous way to make Christmas a visible celebration. It is hard not to notice a tree in
the living room. Then we put brightly wrapped presents beneath it and beautiful lights on it.
The tree becomes a focus of our attention. This is not good if you idolize the tree, but if you
see it as a symbol of God's heart, evergreen with life-giving love expressed in visible gifts, it
can help keep you stay Christ-centered at Christmas.
The Christmas tree was originally the present-bearer. It represented the source of all
gifts, and the gifts were hung on the tree rather than placed under it. In 1836 this custom
was described, "The sturdiest branch drooped with its burden of books, chessmen, puzzles,
etc., for Julius, a stripling of 13; dolls, birds, beasts, and boxes were hung on the lesser
limbs. A regiment of soldiers had alighted on one bough, and Noah's ark was anchored to
another, and to all the slender branches were attached cherries, plums, strawberries and fine
peaches, as tempting and at least as sweet as the fruits of paradise."
Let us not be as those who have eyes but do not see. Let us in this season of seeing, see
everything around us as symbols of the visible gift of God in the babe of Bethlehem. Let
every light you see make you thank God for the light of the world. Let every Christmas tree
you see make you thank God for the Son of God who died on the tree to give you life that is
evergreen-that is, eternal. Let every present you see make you thank God for His Present.
Let every color you see make you thank God for the color and the festive atmosphere that
will be ours forever in the New Jerusalem, because of His Gift. Let your eye gate be ever
open to take in this message, and be filled with the light of His love. Let this be your prayer-
Lord I want to hear you say to me
I gave my best for you to see.
Look around and look above,
In every light see my love.
Let lights of earth and lights of heaven
Remind you of the Light I've given.
In every tree and decoration
See the glory of my salvation.
In every gift you will receive
See my Gift-in Him believe.
Let this truth fill your whole being,
Christmas is the Season for Seeing.