What does Christmas mean to you? Times with family and friends? Perhaps carols, cards, television specials. Maybe hectic shopping, parties, and eating too much. All these and more are part of what many call Christmas. But what about the first Christmas? Why is the original story—the baby in a manger, shepherds, wise men, and angels important? Here are a few important facts that will help us remember the true meaning of Christmas.
A Story That Has Endured
For two millennia, people have told of the child in a Bethlehem manger; of angels who announced his birth to shepherds; of learned men who traveled a great distance to view him.
A Story of Hope and Survival
Jesus’ society knew great pain and oppression. Rome ruled. Corrupt tax collectors burdened the people. Some religious leaders even sanctioned physical beating of Jewish citizens participating in compulsory religious duties.
A Story of Peace and Goodwill
The Christmas angel announced to some shepherds, “‘Don’t be afraid! . . . I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David!” A crowd of angels then appeared praising God and proclaiming peace among people of good will. The Christmas story brings a message of peace that can soothe anxious hearts and calm interpersonal strife.
A Story of Family
Joseph and Mary had their share of family challenges. Consider their circumstances. Mary believed an angel told her she was pregnant by God. Joseph, described as “a just man, decided to break the engagement quietly, so as not to disgrace Mary publicly.” But an angel appeared to him in a dream, explaining that the child was conceived in her by God, and told him to “name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Joseph followed instructions and cared for his family.
A Story of Love
Jesus came to help plug us into God. Mary’s baby was born to die, paying the penalty for our self-centeredness.
Scripture tells us in John 3:16, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
Christmas is meant to celebrate peace and joy. Amid the busyness of shopping, parties, presents, and fun, remember that the Prince of Peace came to spread peace and joy to all who believe in Him.
**Adapted from Rusty Wright, “Christmas: More than a Story?” December 2004.