“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw His star as it rose, and we have come to worship Him.” – Matthew 2:2
There is something fascinating about Christmas being placed so close to the coming of the New Year. Many of you of course know that the timing of Christmas is an artificial one decided by the early church in the fourth century. The more popular explanation is that the early church aligned its celebration of the Nativity with pre-existing pagan festivals, such as the Saturnalia and other solstice traditions, as a way to infiltrate the pagan world.
Though the Bible directs our hearts more towards the remembrance of Jesus’ death and resurrection, there is something about the Christmas story that fills my heart with awesome wonder. This year, I am eagerly looking forward to Christmas because of the examples shown to us by Mary, Joseph, the wise men, and the shepherds. In each of their part in the Christmas story, I learned the comprehensible value of looking forward to Christmas.
- Discipline to wait – the angel of the Lord spoke to both Mary and Joseph about the birth of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Though Mary was confused and confounded at first, she came to accept God’s plan and purpose for her. In Luke 1:38 we read, “Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”” Her acceptance of God’s will, no matter how certain she was, would involve a time of waiting – 9 months to be exact! Joseph had to do the same. In Matthew 1:25 we read, “But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.” Joseph’s dreams of marrying Mary did not come in the most ideal of circumstances. She was already pregnant [with the baby Jesus] before they got married. Joseph’s dream and desire for Mary and him to come together had to take a backseat for a while.
- Direction to worship – here I am awed by the journey and patience of the wise men. Though driven more by academic pursuit, their quest was instigated by their valuation of a prophecy made by Micah that the newborn king of the Jews will be born in Bethlehem. They were so certain of the fulfillment of this prophecy that they came bearing gifts! More than that they came prepared to worship Him. The desire to seek Jesus Christ must be accompanied with a heart of worship like the wise men did! The Bible also tells us that exuberant joy is the outcome of a worshipful spirit. We learned in Matthew 2:10-11 that, “When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” They knew exactly how to worship and who to worship – they bowed before the child – not the mother…
- Desire to witness – A true encounter with Jesus will cause one to speak of the experience. A heart filled with the presence of Christ will yield a bountiful testimony. In Luke 2:17,20 we read, “After seeing Him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child…The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.” The genuine transformation of the shepherds’ hearts through the nearness of God’s presence inspired in them an insatiable appetite to speak of such. May we be moved to do the same!
If you don’t have an anchor yet, a way to fix your celebration of Christmas in a meaningful and profound way – based in the biblical account of the birth of Christ, I pray that you find it today. And as you do, may you look forward to future Christmases brightened by the hope that Mary, Joseph, the wise men, and the shepherds found in Christ…