Most of us have heard the Christmas story dozens, if not hundreds, of times. Even the unchurched and irreligious among us are familiar with the story of the angel appearing to the shepherds on the hillside outside of Bethlehem telling them of the birth of the Savior who would be found wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger, of the declaration of the heavenly host, “Peace on earth and goodwill to men”, and of the shepherds hurrying to the city to discover the child exactly as promised.
We see the Nativity scenes as we drive through our neighborhoods and display them in our homes. We know the words to all of the Christmas carols and cheerfully sing “Christ the Savior is born”, “Glory to the newborn king”, “Born the King of Angels”, and that “This, this, is Christ the King.” We love the story of Christmas.
The question we need to answer is, “Is it just a story, or is it history?” Are the events of which we sing a fairy tale or fable, to did they actually happen?
This is not just an academic question. It is a question of supreme importance. If the story of Jesus’ birth is not real, if it is a folk tale on the same level as the story of Santa Claus or A Christmas Carol, then it requires nothing from us or of us. We can forget about it on December 26, Set it aside for the next 11 months. We can file it away with our Christmas decorations and store it in the attic.
Yet if the story is true, if the events described in the gospels happened as described, then the message of Christmas must endure all year long, every year. The message of the Angels that the Savior was born carries deep meaning, for it implies that we are lost and broken. Saviors are only born to those in need of salvation! The appearance of a heavenly host confirms the existence of a heaven, that this life is not all there is. The proclamation of Peace on Earth implies a world filled with conflict, between nations of men and between men and God. A world waiting for the Prince of Peace.
The Gospels tell us that Jesus was no ordinary baby. He was no ordinary man. Born of a Virgin, conceived by the Holy Spirit, the Bible teaches that Eternal God entered time on the first Christmas, clothing Himself in flesh, taking the form of a baby.
If the Biblical account is true, then we should respond to the Christmas story in the same manner as did the Shepherds- “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” If the account is true, we have little choice but to spend the rest of our lives pursuing a greater understanding of who this Jesus is, why he came, and how we can best honor him with our lives.
What we should not do is allow another Christmas to pass without honestly addressing the question.
PS: Merry Christmas!