Too often our Christmas season is filled with things that cause us more stress. We find ourselves overwhelmed with providing the right gifts, making our house as decorative and welcoming as possible for guests, and getting caught up in the consumerist nature of Christmas.
There usually seems to be an additional focus on giving during the Christmas season as well. Many charities and other organizations step up their efforts and provide meals, clothing, shelter, and other items to those in need. Yet, even with the increase in giving we still find ourselves facing things such as depression, anxiety, and the overbearing stress of the holidays.
The reason that we have Christmas is to celebrate the birth of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. There are different places within Scripture where we can see the story of the birth of Jesus. One of my favorite passages is Matthew 1: 18 – 25 (NLT).
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Two very important pieces to the puzzle that is Christianity, especially within first and second century time periods, has been the validity of the incarnation as well as the resurrection of Jesus. This incarnation of God in human form was the fulfilling of many Old Testament prophecies. Isaiah is one that is often read during this season, but there are many others.
Mary’s visit from an angel alerting her that she had been chosen by God to bear His only Son, was followed up by Joseph’s visit. Joseph was ready to end the relationship and be done with it. Joseph was the betrothed husband to a young woman carrying a child that was not his. The disgrace and embarrassment was heavy upon Joseph. Like many of us this time of year, Joseph and Mary were facing tough times with unknown troubles ahead. In the midst of their struggle, they chose to believe that God was everything they were taught. They allowed themselves to be used by God and be a part of something that would change the world.
Christmas is not just about gifts and giving, or using our lights to remind us of Jesus, Light of the World, but for us to understand that God was willing to come to Earth, to be a man, and to die as a once for all sacrifice for our sins. Christmas is the celebration of God’s willingness to love us, even though we are not perfect and do not have it all together. Christmas is a time for us to understand that God was able to love us when we did not deserve it, and for Jesus’ light to continue to shine, we must be willing to love others the way He loves us. Merry Christmas.
The writer is the pastor for Maplewood and DeGraff United Methodist Churches.