Summary: The real Christmas story begins long before the birth of that baby boy in Bethlehem; it begins in a place called Heaven, the home of God. Something took place in the mind and heart of God that made it all possible. That something is what was expressed by
It was Christmas Eve, 1910. General William Booth, the founder of The Salvation Army in London, England was near the end of his life. His health was poor, and he was going to be unable to attend the Army’s annual convention. Booth had become an invalid, and his eyesight was failing him. No one knew that he would not live to see another Christmas.
Somebody suggested that General Booth send a telegram or a message to be read at the opening of the convention as an encouragement to the many soldiers of the Salvation Army that would be in attendance following Christmas and their many hours of labor ministering to so many others through the holidays and the cold winter months. Booth agreed to do so.
Knowing that funds were limited and desiring not to use any more money than necessary so that as much money as possible could be used to help the many people in need, General Booth decided to send a one word message. He searched his mind and reviewed his years of ministry, looking for the one word that would summarize his life, the mission of the Army and encourage the others to continue on.
When the thousands of delegates met, the moderator announced that Booth would not be able to be present because of failing health and eyesight. Gloom and pessimism swept across the floor of the convention. Then, the moderator announced that Booth had sent a message to be read with the opening of the first session. He opened the telegram and read the one word message:
Signed, General Booth.
At Christmas time it is traditional to read about the angels, the shepherds, the wise men, no room at the inn, Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus, and the star over Bethlehem. It is good for us to know and remember the details of that first Christmas in Judea so many years ago.
But, the real Christmas story begins long before that in a place called Heaven, the home of God.
Something happened there that brought about the events that we celebrate every December 25th. Something took place in the mind and heart of God that made it all possible. That something is what was expressed by that single word contained in the telegram of William Booth to the Salvation Army Convention at Christmas time, 1910.
In Philippians 2:4-5, we read these words:
“Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…”
The Christmas story is really about others. It is about being like Jesus and considering the welfare of others above the welfare of ourselves. It is about caring about the feelings of others more then we care about our own feelings. It is about being willing to sacrifice our own comfort in order to minister to the needs of others. It is about desiring the best for others more than we desire good for ourselves. It is about considering others as being more important than we are.
And, like Jesus, it is refusing to demand our rights so that others may be blessed in ways that they could not otherwise be blessed.
That is what the Christmas story is really all about. Jesus had the right to remain in Heaven, to stay home, to be worshiped and adored, to rule and to reign. Instead of holding onto His rights, He put them aside and became one of us. He became a servant instead of remaining as the One to be served. He became a victim instead of refusing to be victimized. He became a curse instead of receiving nothing but the blessings and glory that were His by right. He accepted ridicule, mockery, betrayal and cursing instead of insisting on the honor that was His to demand and expect. He died instead of rescuing Himself from the clutches of evildoers.
All of this He did, not for Himself, but for others.
Let me share a story that I received in an email just a few days ago.
A Baby’s Hug
We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a highchair and noticed everyone was quietly sitting and talking. Suddenly, Erik squealed glee and said, "Hi." He pounded his fat baby hands on the high chair tray. His eyes were crinkled in laughter and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin, as he wriggled and giggled with merriment.
I looked around and saw the source of his merriment. It was a man whose pants were baggy with a zipper at half-mast and his toes poked out of would-be shoes. His shirt was dirty and his hair was uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard and his nose was so varicose it looked like a road map. We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he smelled quite bad. His hands waved and flapped on loose wrists.