Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God. We honor it, we mark it as a remembrance. One can write down a whole bunch of flaws or gripes with the celebration, some consequential, some not( He was most likely born in the springtime; it was most likely BC 3,4, or 5; it’s become over-commercialized to the point of insanity; now nobody in the public domain can even say ‘Christmas’, but Happy Holidays, holiday cards, holiday tree, etc; perhaps many of the rituals and the day itself were confiscated from Druids or some other pagans; and on and on).
But the fact remains. A child was born to Mary and her husband Joseph, a child of which he was not the father. He was the Son of God. Though Jesus was born in a stable and used as a crib a feeding trough for farm animals (aka manger), it is as if God the Father could only contain himself so much. A bright star shone in the sky marking the spot, and angels were sent to shepherds at night (the fast-food workers in the economic scale of the times), providing a glorious display to a limited and humble audience.
It is ever so. God has at many times honored the lower ranked. Isaac and Jacob were second sons. Judah was the fourth son. David, the seventh son. Elijah was nobody at all, but faced down King Ahab, saying “It will not rain these many years until I say it will rain.” (slightly fanciful paraphrase). Moses stuttered. Matthew was a hated tax collector. Paul had some kind of debilitating handicap (eyesight, many say). These men were used mightily by God. And in like manner, the Lord brought his Son into the world in a poor family, to be raised in a nowhere place.
And why do we celebrate Christmas? It is because of the Cross. The Christmas-time things are all good. God became man. Christ child in the manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. All good. But not required, except for one reason. He came to die, a perfect, unblemished sacrifice to pay the debt of sin for a fallen world who could not.
It was for redemption.
So as you celebrate the birth, as I do, just keep one corner of your heart painted on the target. In the springtime of AD 29 or 30, scripture says that Jesus had his eyes fixated on Jerusalem, as he made the last journey there. That was the prize. That was the mission, to willingly die for our sins. To be scourged near the point of death, then crucified by cruel men, with spikes in His wrists and feet, with the religious leaders of the day looking on in approval.
Because the love of God required it.
And that, my friends, is more beautiful than the manger. Merry Christmas to you.