- Last Updated on 08:08 AM 12/27/13
- BY DR. RUSSELL LEE
Christmas day is a day like no other. America has developed traditions which, sometimes make sense, sometimes are off the wall, but traditions nonetheless.
As we traveled to my home in South Carolina today, I was struck by the number of homes along the highway where cars were parked, for everyone seemed to be home.
Most people are not working and have celebrated the day by gathering with family or friends at the old humble abode.
People are opening gifts, sleeping late, cooking Christmas dinner, or just relaxing in a collective respite from the frenetic pace of everyday life. Family has gathered from near or far, and the day unfolds.
We are in a classic minivan headed toward the interstate, where people are hurtling along at even faster speeds, headed who knows where. Why is it that no matter how fast a car is going, someone else has to go even faster? Whether it be us or the car which just passed us, someone else is always in a bigger hurry.
Harking back to Bethlehem, perhaps the day before Christmas, about 2,000 years ago, we take a look at Mary and Joseph hurrying to their ancestral home to register for taxes. Many family members were with them on this journey, but we don’t read about them in the scriptures.
I wonder if the unseen were the misbehavers, the ones who were arguing and drinking and bellyaching and cheating and stealing along the way. Probably a mixture of good and bad, believers and non-believers alike, on the journey.
Mary and Joseph are faithful followers of God. Angels are appearing, God is speaking, and history is being changed by the upcoming birth.
So on Christmas day Jesus is born. Most people have no idea it was happening.
The evil king, the wise men, the shepherds, the family and a few others know. But all the same the world is changed forever.
Sadly, it is much the same today. Many believe. Many do not.
Government is corrupt and self-centered. Taxes are too high, and care about those who think differently is rare.
Many Christians go through the motions of believing, but when things start to be inconvenient, faith and Jesus are set aside. God watches, acts, speaks. He waits for people to see Christmas day for what it really is.
Christmas after Christmas, new believers find Jesus in the manger. They see the magic, and bow at the wonder of what God has done.
If one is in church on Christmas Eve, it is hard not to see the amazing things God has done, in stark contrast to what people can do. When we echo the angels’ message about the Savior born to save us from our sins, hearts are melted, and God and heaven’s angels rejoice again.
When one realizes that God has stepped out of heaven for us, and begins to appreciate the enormity of that action, faith is sparked and sometimes catches fire. The magic of that night happens once more. We kneel at the manger and are astonished at what God is in the middle of.
Christmas day then becomes what God has intended — a celebration of Jesus, the baby of Bethlehem. Nothing more, nothing less. The Prince of Peace has come to bring peace on earth. The King of Kings has come to reign in our hearts. Lord of Lords has arrived to take his place and be worshiped. The Everlasting Father has come to show us forever. We turn from all other activities and celebrate Jesus for who he is. The Savior to be worshiped and served forever.
That is the time to vow a life of service and obedience. We take our families to church. We realize that everything, even work, possessions, family all fall second to God’s plans which spring from that fateful Bethlehem night.
Two Christmas days bookend the entire year. The time in between becomes moments of outreach, of giving rather than receiving and giving God his rightful first place in all things.
Yes, our childhood Christmases may begin with presents and nativity plays. But sooner or later they must begin to be seen as loving God and neighbor with all we’ve got. No longer a legend or an amateur presentation of the manger and its supporting characters, Christmas day is real and begins to affect every portion of our lives. It is a blessed event for which not only Mary and Zechariah poured forth songs of joy, but a day in which we are so filled with God’s presence that we cannot help but do the same.
Quickly now, before the magic and wonder of Christmas day begins to fade away, grab hold of angels’ wings. Lock onto star trails of divinity. See for yourself what this manger, the baby and the God who has sent him can do. Celebrate the birthday of a king and your new birth as one of his children who lives to walk with him forever!