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December 25 – What Can I Say?

This may sound a little crazy, but Christmas is hard on preachers. Most preachers like to be original, a little bit creative even, in their sermons. Meanwhile, people want to hear about the birth of the baby Jesus, because – after all – that’s what Christmas is about. When you think about it, though, there isn’t much in the New Testament about the birth of Jesus. Matthew includes the story about Joseph deciding not to divorce Mary and a brief mention about Jesus’ birth. Then, it jumps to the story of the magi who showed up a little later when Jesus and His parents had moved to a house. Mark begins the story with John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness. John has a spiritualized description of the birth, but it just doesn’t have the same impact as the baby in a manger. In the epistles, the only hint about the origin of Jesus was found in Galatians 4:4. Sometimes, it works to go back to the prophecies about the coming Messiah in the Old Testament, but so few talk about the child. In short, there’s only one passage in the Bible that talks about Jesus as a baby in a manger, and that’s this passage in Luke.

Don’t take this to mean that I don’t like this passage, it’s a beautiful passage. I’m just pointing out that New Testament believers knew about the virgin birth, but they didn’t spend a lot of time discussing the actual birth process. It wasn’t as important to them as the story that unfolded that revealed God’s grace through the resurrection. There’s a lot that even this passage doesn’t tell us, and various ways to interpret some of the words used in the story. It can be confusing to unfold the whole birth story from what little information that we have. Sometimes, I wonder what I can say that’s truthful and true to the story of Christmas. “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” (Luke 2:1-20 NIV)

There are a lot of heroes in the Christmas story: Mary who was obedient to an incredible call from God; Joseph who endured ridicule and scandal as the earthly father of Jesus; and these shepherds who came to worship. I’ve always wondered about them. They’re watching their flocks who are out in the field at night. They’re trying to keep them safe, and then along came an angel who told them an incredible story. Because of the message given by the angel and his backup choir, they decide to look for a baby lying in a manger. Did they leave anyone behind to look after the sheep? Perhaps an old guy like me who was cynical and wasn’t ready to go on an adventure, or perhaps the youngest with the least seniority who always got the jobs no one wanted. Whatever happened, some of the shepherds, if not all, showed up at the manger and saw the baby. They told Mary and Joseph what they knew about the baby, and then, wait for it, they left glorifying and praising God.

What can I say about Christmas? Sometimes we may begin to take the Christmas story for granted, because we hear it so much. Sometimes we recognize the commercialism of Christmas and rant about the need to return to the focus of Christmas: Jesus. What we can always do as we think about this amazing story is praise and glorify God. Someone noted that many babies have become kings, but only one king has become a baby. This is what the shepherds saw, and they praised and glorified God because of that. However you observe Christmas, whatever your traditions may be, we have an amazing privilege of glorifying God and praising Him as we think of His birth, but even more so as we think about the eventual crucifixion and resurrection. If you really want to know what you can say about the Christmas story, take a lesson from the shepherds and go out into the world glorifying and praising God.

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