Summary: The splendor and majesty of Jesus upon His birth.
THE SPLENDOR OF CHRISTMAS
We are probably wrong when we paint pictures, write poetry, compose music, and preach sermons depicting the Wise Men from the East bending over the crude feeding trough in a cattle stable. That was the unique experience of the Shepherds, as recorded by Dr. Luke in his account of the birth of Jesus. It is Matthew who carefully tells us that by the time the Wise Men from the East arrived, Joseph had obviously found livable quarters, a house, for Mary and the Babe. In this Scripture lesson, I want to focus on blending the Lucan and Matthean accounts of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus, the Messiah … the Christ. These two accounts form the true Biblical basis for our Christmas celebrations, and celebrating His birth is not complete apart from both accounts of His birth being carefully and prayerfully considered. It is when we blend these two accounts that there emerges what I choose to call The Splendor of Christmas. How then shall we view this Biblical account that commands the celebratory activities of Christians throughout the world, that causes the antagonistic words and actions of atheists throughout the world, and that carves out the opportunities for the economic strategies of entrepreneurs throughout the world? The Scriptures give us the keys to The Splendor of Christmas.
1. The Splendor of Simplicity. (Luke 2:7)
“And she birthed her first born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a feeding trough, because there was no place for them in the inn.”
What we get from the Biblical account is totally void of the magical and weird. There is nothing that parallels the stories of antiquity about how the gods of men and some of the religious heroes of the past have supernaturally originated. For example, the Greeks had a god called Perseus. His birth was supposedly miraculous. It was believed that Jupiter found a lovely goddess in a prison. He wooed her and won her by distilling himself into a shower of gold. Their son was Perseus. Nothing like that in the simple birth of Jesus the Christ. Rather it has within it something so exquisitely tender and homelike that year after year and century after century much of the world returns to it. The harshness of the world grows a little softer under its matchless simplicity. The calendars of nearly every nation return the world’s attention to that magnificent moment in history. The cemeteries of the world are marked with symbols that draw the attention of all who pass by to that historic day when in a cattle cave a Baby was born and laid in a crude feeding trough. Out of the simplicity of that crude feeding trough there came one for whom untold millions have given their lives, armies have marched, music has been composed, books have been written, poetry has been inspired, and above all else, lives have been transformed.
If God had revealed Himself only in the strange phenomenon of a bright star, men may well have doubted their eyes. If He had uttered Himself in some powerful voice of thunder, men might have doubted their ears. If He had taken the form of an angel, men might have been dazzled by an overcharge of brilliance. If He had come as a powerful warrior, brandishing sword and shield, men would have cringed in fear and submitted in terror! But a tiny Baby Boy with a cry in the night from a carved-out cattle shed, and a crude feeding trough, and a mother’s embracing arms, and later a plain house for shelter! Here is the legible handwriting of God on the parchment of human history. This has been, and shall forever be the Splendor of Simplicity that draws us to the birth of our Savior.
2. The Splendor of Singing. (Luke 2:13-14)
“And suddenly there was with the angel a great company of heavenly hosts praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and upon earth peace among people on whom His favor rests.’”
This is what is known in the Church as the Advent Season. It is that time of the year when the Church throughout the world focuses on the birth of Jesus. Interestingly, the Church is joined by the world that doesn’t really understand the true meaning of Christmas. What would Christmas be without the music of Christmas? The hymnals of Churches throughout the world have significant sections that contain the great Christmas carols. We think about the Advent hymns and carols and oratorios that have been accumulated through the centuries. They are the skilled and graceful servants of all praiseful hearts. Year by year we turn to them for help in bringing worship to the King of kings.