Christmas in the United States is a secularized holiday that even the most zealous unbeliever enjoys. Who doesn’t appreciate time off from work, opening presents, eating good food, and spending time with family? During the Christmas season, people decorate, celebrate, sleep late, and shop. Believers can do these things, but we must also drill down to the real meaning of the season. If we truly live our faith, we commemorate the Savior’s birth all year. But today try to imagine what it must have been like for the shepherds called to see a newborn child:
“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger’” (Luke 2:8-12).
The shepherds told others what the angel told them about the Child, and they marveled. A unique birth, a unique life, and a unique death of the Son who came to bestow grace and mercy and who will return to deliver the Father’s wrath. Christ’s place of birth, His purpose in a fallen world, His death on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead were foretold. It’s an honor to be a part of His kingdom and a recipient of His saving grace. I bow down in gratitude, sing His praises, and wonder why others reject the privilege of having their sins washed away. Alas, they don’t have the Holy Spirit.
The gospel and its exclusivity confound and offend those who are perishing. I once was blind to the truth and wallowed in the darkness. I thought God’s system of justice was so unfair. I couldn’t believe that unless I followed Christ, I’d be standing in hell next to a mass murderer. From my fallen vantage point, the punishment seemed out of proportion. I came to understand that my vantage point didn’t come anywhere close to God’s. When I think of all the sins I’ve committed (and will commit) and how Christ stood in my place so that I won’t be righteously judged for my rebellion, I’m astounded. Now, I work out these mysteries with an attitude of awe, grateful that God isn’t fair but merciful.
The wonder of God is too big for my finite mind to fully understand. Just when I think I’ve grasped the whole, miraculous thing, I take a step back and realize there’s so much more to know. But even with my intellectual limitations I take pleasure in the effort to comprehend it.
A Savior is born to us. Merry Christmas!