Looking at the real Christmas story

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces….” Isaiah 53:2-3

I cannot wait to see my children and grandchildren once again! Anticipation of the day they arrive controls my thoughts in every waking moment. Together, we will celebrate the joy of Christmas and renew the bonds of familial friendship.

My sole desire is to look into their faces and reflect on all the goodness they are. Together, we will laugh and cry with joy. We will dance around the room, singing, playing games and listen as children take their turn playing on the newly tuned piano. And we most certainly will take photos of this gathering, for the record, and to reminisce in later years.

We will gather together and worship with our community of friends and celebrate the glad tidings of Christ Jesus’ birth, while listening to the story how the angels made the announcement to the shepherds in the countryside, more than two thousand years ago.

We will look in awe and wonder of the miracle of birth, not only that a baby was born, but a miracle of conception, gestation and delivery of a child—by a young virgin, no less—was made possible only by the power of God.

Family photo, scene 1. Introduction

There is beauty in this nativity scene. God’s love for all humanity, wrapped up in clothes, and making cute sounds we all love to hear. His mother, setting aside the feeling of intense pain during delivery, is gazing into his eyes, bonding to her child as any mother would.

Can you hear her quiet reflections on that blessed day? “Oh, child, my heart truly adores you! I want to spend eternity right here, right now, full of love and peace and contentment! I know this is but a moment in time, and you will do great things. Can you spare me this brief moment as I look at you and wonder at who you are? Your presence has already blessed me beyond anything I have known!”

Family photo, scene 2. Beauty Interrupted

We do know that life is complicated, even in Bethlehem, in one’s own home town. Joseph and Mary, and child, had to flee to escape the cruel wrath of an insecure king. Herod heard the stories that a new king had been born, and he was convinced there was no room for anyone who dared or questioned his authority and right to the throne. Herod wanted to see this child killed—done away with— and the sooner, the better!

So, in a short time, a young family left their country to seek safety elsewhere. They were refugees from Bethlehem, fleeing a corrupt and evil king. They had become, as it were, “undocumented” immigrants in Egypt. Even among misfits, they had become misfits.

Can you imagine what it was like to find food and shelter in a strange land? In Egypt, where they worshiped strange gods and had strange customs, and Joseph had to find a way to survive until God said it was safe to return.

We do not have much information about this time, only that we know from other scripture that Joseph was a carpenter, so he may have used his skills to earn revenue or to barter for food and a place to stay.

Family photo, scene 3. Troublemaker

Fast forward to when Jesus is fully grown and beginning the ministry God called him to do; He is beginning to stir up trouble, not that he was a bad person, but his ministry and purpose was on a direct collision course with the religious leaders of the day.

In one meeting, Jesus reads from Isaiah 61, “The spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor….”

Before the day ended, the crowd in the synagogue were intent on killing him.

What was Mary thinking about this, about now? Can you imagine her concern for the safety of her blessed Son?

Family photo, scene 4. Golgotha and the grave

Jesus is arrested, tried and condemned to death. He will die a most cruel death on a Roman cross. What Satan planned to end God’s plan to redeem humanity from his grip, ends in a triumphant and glorious victory. Death, sin and hell are defeated! Jesus Christ is risen from the dead and has led the way, having paid for the wages of our sin. He now offers to us the opportunity to live forever in heaven with him.

Thinking about this last scene, this last photo of the family; it includes everyone who reaches out and takes ahold of the hand of Jesus Christ, and bows the knee in repentance, worship and adoration.

What an amazing photo! There is beauty in each scene, as we are introduced to the miraculous wonder of the Christmas story, and as we observe each portrait along the way. The brutal ugliness which was written long ago, has now become the sweet smell of victory.

Merry Christmas!