Introduction to the Reading:
Have you ever sat down and read the Christmas story? It sounds silly, but really, when was the last time you just read the whole Christmas story? From little on, at least for many of us, we have either heard the Christmas story at church or read bits of it with our families. I'm sure nearly everyone has seen some version of it on television. But let me ask again, when was the last time you just read the Christmas story?
I clearly remember one Christmas sitting down with no other purpose than to just read the Christmas story. I remember specifically because that is literally all I had planned for the day. I was backpacking Europe, and we had ended up in Berlin. Almost everything was closed, so there wasn't much we could do anyways, but Dave and I figured the best way to celebrate Christmas that year was to read the Christmas story. Ok, we did have one other item on the agenda: we had also bought ourselves chocolate cake (see the picture below). We would eat chocolate cake and read the Christmas story.
So why do I bring this up? The reason is because I still remember how much I enjoyed reading the Christmas story. Without all of the distractions that normally go with Christmas and with all the time in the world, I just took my time and pondered each page. On top of it, being in a different situation and environment allowed me to look at things from a fresh perspective.
Today we get to read the Christmas story without all the "distractions of Christmas." We get to read the story not from the perspective of the calendar year, but from the time frame of The Story - History. As you read today I won't interrupt, but I ask you to keep this in mind: What struck you differently today? Try to read the Christmas story as if it were your very first time hearing about it. What stood out that you may have not noticed before? Let God's grace overwhelm you once again.
When You're Done Reading - Thoughts to Ponder:
So what did you notice? What struck me as I read the Christmas story this week was how surreal it seemed. Then again, I don't know if surreal is the right word at all. Everything was so real! What do I mean? Well let me put it this way:
As I've mentioned a few times already in the blog, we bought a house. It was quite exciting - for a bit. Looking at houses, getting the paperwork together, walking through with the inspection - all the things that needed to get done before closing were super exciting and everything was quite stressful. But we had a rental clause in our offer so when it came to closing, it was honestly quite boring. The owners weren't even there! We sat down, signed some papers, got some food, and went back to our apartment. In fact, I didn't walk in the house again for over a month. When I finally walked in to "our house" it was very truly ours, yet at the same time it didn't seem like that big of an event.
For centuries, no millennia - believers waited for the coming Messiah. As the time got closer, there were more and more prophesies. On top of it, the people of Israel through whom the Messiah would come, had some exciting times - kings, wars, deportation, re-habitation... Then there was silence. For 400 some years everything was quiet: no prophecies, no water being divided, nothing.
Finally, on what I'm sure felt like a normal day, an angel appears to a normal girl in a normal city. Yes, angels appear to announce the birth, but to shepherds in a field, not to the crowds in the Colosseum in Rome. The baby is born in a feeding trough. Jesus own parents even seem to forget who their child is as they rebuke him for spending too much time in the temple. In many ways, it all seems so normal. Could this really be God in the flesh? Could the Upper Story come crashing into the Lower Story with so little of a bang?
Then again, I'm not really surprised at all. Having been following God's story over the last 21 weeks, it's interesting how God doesn't do things in the normal way, or I should say, how he does things in the seemingly normal way. For us, it would be normal to have such a huge event plastered on every television and computer screen. It would be normal to send up fireworks for such an event. It would be normal to pick Hollywood stars or at least those who have auditioned before a live television audience to be the stars. But as we've read over the weeks, how often does the Lord use regular people - like Abraham or David or even me - to carry out his work?
Just because in many ways the Christmas story isn't spectacular, does it make it any less real? Not at all. Yet there are some miracles here, aren't there? God takes on human flesh! God leaves the glories of heaven to dwell on earth! And perhaps the greatest miracle: God does this for me!
Making it My Own:
So what do you do with the Christmas story? You tell it! To finish off the story I started with...At the hostel in Berlin, we started talking to a number of the people staying here (which is one of the reasons I love hostels: you make friends from all over the world even as you are making dinner...but now I'm off topic). As we talked, many of them had no idea what to do to celebrate Christmas. I made a suggestion: go to church! They all were amazed since they had not thought of it. Soon we had a dozen people trampling through the snowy streets walking to church. People who wouldn't have even thought about church had I not brought it up. I'll never forget the lesson I learned: people want to hear the story of Christmas. People are interested in hearing the Gospel that is proclaimed in worship. Sometimes, we just need to invite them!
by A. Katherine Hankey
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
I love to tell the story, because I know it's true;
It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.
I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory,
To tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love
To tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love
I love to tell the story; ’tis pleasant to repeat
What seems, each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet.
I love to tell the story, for some have never heard
The message of salvation from God’s own holy Word.
Seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song,
’Twill be the old, old story that I have loved so long.