This time of year is filled with many warm memories. Families gather and gifts are exchanged. Did you write a letter to Santa when you were a child? Did that letter tell Santa how good you had been all year and then list everything that would make you happy? The Christmas tree goes up and the bright lights and sparkling ornaments add an air of childish anticipation. When we’re older, there’s a bit more hassle involved. Sending Christmas cards, buying gifts on that list to Santa, baking cookies, making fudge, and somehow you manage to put up decorations. It can be a time of great stress. Sometimes there are Christmas parties to attend, which is just one more thing on the “to do” list. We have to make time to attend a Christmas play and maybe do some Christmas caroling. By the time it’s over, we’ve over-spent our budget and are exhausted. The question is, what are you celebrating?
We’ve moved away from the real meaning of what we say we celebrate and get caught up in what the world dictates. Do we celebrate the birth of Jesus or try to create a Hallmark moment?
Another tradition many families practice is to gather all the children around Grandpa to hear him read that famous poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Moore. This poem starts with the famous line, “’Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse.” It’s a whimsical poem about a man who wakes up on Christmas Eve to see Santa putting gifts under the tree. Parents want so much for their children to believe in Santa, but he’s a myth. Something made up out of the imagination of the human mind.
Shouldn’t we be more concerned that our children believe in Jesus?
What would happen if, instead of this fanciful poem, you read the true story of Christmas?
The real story begins long ago in a garden. God created everything; and on the sixth day, He created man, then made a woman to be his wife. It was a perfect place, but it wasn’t long until sin entered. There was one rule that God gave to Adam: don’t eat the fruit from a certain tree. Satan deceived Eve into eating it, and she convinced Adam to also eat it. Adam chose to sin. That sin separated man from God, and Paradise was lost. God never stopped loving His creation, even though we continue to choose to sin. God had a plan to mend the separation that’s caused by sin.
Through the years that followed Adam’s original sin, things became very corrupt and sinful. Satan gripped the hearts of many people, and the sinful ways of man have continued to grow worse. God made sure that people would know that there would be a Redeemer who would bring a way to bridge the separation caused by sin. He spoke through prophets. King David was from the little town of Bethlehem, and the prophet Micah said that the Messiah would be born there.
“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2).
The prophet Isaiah disclosed that the Messiah would be born of a virgin.
“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
Isaiah also told that the child the virgin would bear would be the Son of God. This means that Jesus was fully human, but also fully God.
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgement and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
Many more prophecies described the Messiah and what He would do. People who studied the Scriptures anticipated the coming Messiah, but through their own blindness they missed Him.
Time went on, and the Jewish people came under oppression by the Romans. They longed for a conquering king to free them from the heavy yoke the Romans put upon them. They longed for the Messiah because they thought He would come as a mighty warrior and free them from the Roman tyranny. Little did they know that miracles were happening. Prophecy was being fulfilled. In Nazareth, a small town in Galilee, a young girl named Mary was engaged to a man named Joseph. There was nothing unusual about this couple. Joseph was a carpenter and would provide for Mary after they were married, and Mary would be his wife. Their lives would soon change drastically.
“And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary” (Luke 1:26-27).
Gabriel had surprising news for Mary. He told her that she would conceive and give birth to a son and that the child would be “the Son of the Highest” and given the throne of David forever. Joseph and Mary were both descendants of David…Joseph from the royal line through Solomon, and Mary from another son, Nathan.
“Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (Luke 1:34).
Mary was a virgin, and she would give birth to the Son of God, just as Isaiah had foretold. The Holy Spirit would come upon Mary, and she would conceive a son. His name would be Jesus, which means “Jehovah is salvation,” and He would be fully human because of Mary, and fully God because He would be conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary agreed and became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Through Him, the sin that came into the world because of Adam could be forgiven.
Being pregnant prior to marriage is never good, but it was a capital offense when Mary was an unwed mother. Joseph could have refused to marry her, and she could have been stoned. While Joseph was considering what he should do, Gabriel also visited him.
“But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shall call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21).
Joseph believed the angel. He chose to protect Mary and the Child in her womb. Prophecy was being fulfilled. This child would be born of a virgin, and He was of the House of David. The only complication was that Mary and Joseph lived many miles from Bethlehem. This didn’t surprise God. He knew the Romans would help to fulfill prophecy.
“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, everyone into his own city” (Luke 2:1-3).
Since Joseph was of the House of David, he and Mary traveled to Bethlehem. There must have been many relatives there, but no home opened their doors to this young couple. Was it because Mary was an unwed mother? Or did they just get there too late and all the homes were full and there was no room at the inn? Movies usually show Joseph and Mary arriving at Bethlehem just as she was ready to deliver the baby, but that may not actually be the case.
“And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:6-7).
The journey must have been hard for Mary since she was “great with child,” as verse 5 tells us. Joseph did the best he could to provide shelter and safety. So, on that night before Christmas so long ago, the scene wasn’t as warm and cozy as the poem about the mythical Santa placing gifts under a tree while his reindeer waited on the roof.
Jesus grew into adulthood. He healed many people, cast out demons, and forgave sin. When the time was right, He fulfilled prophecy by willingly shedding His blood on the cross…a sacrifice to atone for our sin. The sin that entered the world through Adam and separated us from God was nailed to the cross.
Salvation is a free gift from God, but you need to accept the sacrifice Jesus made on your behalf.
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6).
Instead of making sure your children believe the myth of Santa Claus, be sure they believe the truth of Christ. On the night before Christmas, read them the truth from Scripture. Tell them how much Jesus loves them.
The greatest gift ever given wasn’t wrapped in shiny paper and put under a tree. The Greatest Gift was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. Accept that Gift today and be eternally blessed.
God bless you all,
Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at https://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original scripture is “theopneustos” – God breathed.
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