we were asked to explain Christmas, we would probably have to think for
a while, then we would say something about Jesus being born in
Bethlehem. Perhaps the best explanation of what Christmas is all about
is given by St. Paul, in the briefest, simplest form. "He was rich. He
became poor for your sake." He goes on, "Though He was in the form of
God, He did not deem equality with God as something to be grasped at,
rather He emptied Himself and took the form of a slave being born into
the likeness of men." At one point in history, at one place on earth, He
made himself known to us in a form that we could grasp.
there were no Christmas, our idea of God might be a God of power and
might. A God who only revealed himself in suns and star systems. He
would be a remote God, never intimately near, never close by. It is
true there is a revelation of God in nature, but often nature conceals
as much as she reveals. A writer once wrote how he had spent the day in
the Canadian Rockies. The scenery was so magnificent that he could not
put it into words. So majestic that it was indescribable, but he said he
felt very small and insignificant. When he returned home, his wife
welcomed him with a kiss. His children gave him a big hug. Then he knew
what had bothered him about his day on the mountain. Yes, he had felt
God in nature, but he had wanted something more. Amidst all that
grandeur, he had wanted a touch. He had wanted to be noticed. He had
wanted some human contact. That is what the incarnation means. That is
what the birth of Christ is all about.
glory of God comes into our human nature, and it speaks to us within
intimacy which it is not within the power of sea or sky or mountain to
convey. In Jesus Christ, God is made clear and concrete. He is made
available so that we can grasp Him when we fall; bow before Him when we
want to adore; kneel to Him when we want to pray; live in communion with
became poor for our sake. Born in a borrowed barn, His teaching and
preaching was done on foot. If a feast had been set before Him, it was
in another's house. He had no home of His own. When He died, He was
buried in the tomb of another. He laid aside His omnipotence, Creator
of all, He became like one of His creatures.
is all through the bible a kind of Cinderella theme in the story of
God's dealing with us. Again and again, it is the lowly and despised,
the unlikely and insignificant people, from whom light and salvation
come. And so it is with the Christmas story. A teenage girl living in a
small corner of the world is told that she is to be the mother of God.
Then we have shepherds, not as the painters and poets have idealized
them, but rough, uncultivated, boorish and despised as outcasts. But it
was to them the angels came. These men who were looked upon as sinners
and outcasts by the religious establishment, only they had their ears
attuned to the music of the angels singing "Glory to God in the Highest
and on Earth Peace." And as St. Paul tells us, it was for your sake
that this all happened, the self-emptying God.
meant a laying aside of glory. A voluntary restraint of power.
Acceptance of hardship. Isolation. Ill treatment. Malice and
misunderstanding. All for your sake, that by His poverty you might
of Mary, Bethlehem was a place of birth, but each heart is a Bethlehem,
is a place of birth. And each heart can be a Calvary, a place of death.
It's up to you whether your heart is a place of birth or death,
whether you allow God to come to you and live in you. You have the free
will to accept God or reject him.
then is the purpose of Christmas? What was Christ's own Christmas
dream? Simply this. Christ was born to bear other Christs. Christmas
is meaningless, unless it means not merely God in a stable, but God in a
heart. In your heart.
is the birth of the Son of God on Earth and yet only the first
Christmas took place in a stable. Every Christmas since then has taken
place in human hearts. Only the first Christmas recorded the birth of
Christ in Bethlehem. Every Christmas since then is significant in so far
as it records the birth or the rebirth of Christ in us.
John tells us the word was made flesh. That line takes the human beauty
of the Christmas story and links it with the Divine, it puts God in the
straw, and the hands that hold Him are those of a human who is the
mother of God, and caroling angels are the servants of the Child. And
the shepherds were made by Him. The Christmas star is His toy, and He
alone is true King. We can see our God in a child because the word was
made flesh and dwelt among us.
birth of Jesus is not only an event which happened in the past at a
certain time and place. It is also an experience which is capable of
unlimited repetition. It we want to carry the spirit of Christmas into
the whole year, then Christ must be born anew in us, that we may say
with the Apostle Paul, "It is not I that live, but it is Christ that
lives in me, then there will be peace on earth and peace in our hearts.