Earlier this month I was invited back to New Hope Church in Maryland to speak at their monthly RESTORE gathering for young adults. The theme was simply Christmas, but when you put the name of the experience with the theme you get Restore: Christmas. So it got me thinking of what would it look like to restore Christmas.
I want you to stop for a moment, close your eyes, and think about what Christmas means to you.
Now that your eyes are opened, what images came to mind? Maybe it was food, friends, presents, shopping, football, lights, relatives or Santa. Or maybe for you thinking about Christmas conjured up thoughts of the birth of Jesus, the incarnation of the Messiah, suffering in the world, service, selflessness, etc.
Now stop, close your eyes and consider what Christmas meant to Jesus.
I am not trying to be a downer on the topic, but I believe that “Christmas” had a completely different meaning to Jesus than what most of us see it as today. I would submit to you that in the account of the birth of Jesus as it is found in the Gospel of Matthew that there were four significant hardships that Jesus and his family faced:
1 – TURBULENT FAMILY ENVIRONMENT | His parents nearly got a divorce [Matthew 1:18-19]. When Joseph found out that his fiancée Mary was pregnant, he “resolved to divorce her quietly.” Before an angel set him straight there would have been quite a bit of anger from Joseph when he found out that his virgin bride to be was pregnant. Once they got over this issue, then they end up in an animal feeding trough to give birth to their Son. Life was not easy for the young family.
2 – TURBULENT POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT | Baby boys were ordered to be killed [Matthew 2:1-18]. King Herod, after hearing that the king of the Jews was born, felt threatened. As a result “he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under.” Just ask the parents of all of those children what Christmas meant to them.
3 – BABY JESUS IS A POLITICAL REFUGEE | Joseph was instructed to take his family to Egypt [Matthew 2:13]. Shortly after the birth of Jesus an angel appears to Joseph in a dream and says, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” I recently returned from Egypt where I was speaking to refugees from Sudan. Jesus has more in common with them then they may realize.
4 – FAMILY RELOCATED | Joseph moved the family to Nazareth [Matthew 2:19-23]. An angel appeared to Joseph after King Herod died and instructed the family to move back to Israel. But when Joseph found out that Herod’s son Archelaus was now reigning over Judea he was afraid to go back to his hometown and ended up moving the family to the small village Nazareth. One scholar points out that the gold that the wise men brought to Jesus may have been to provide funding for the family to get their feet on the ground. After all, Joseph would’ve had to purchase new tools for his carpentry shop, not to fail to mention basic life necessities.
When I reread the account of the birth of my hero, savior and best friend- Jesus, I was struck by the fact that Christmas has completely different connotation to Him then it does to me and most people I know. Jesus comes from Heaven to become a little baby born into a sinful, corrupt world. Why? To restore us and this planet.
My prayer this Christmas Season is that we’ll take some time out to really consider what the true meaning of Christmas is all about. It seems to me that Satan has seen fit to make sure that Christmas becomes all about a fat man in a red suit that brings you all the presents you want; only to detract from the most amazing gift that has ever come into this planet and into your life: Jesus.
That said, don’t let the opportunity pass you by to really consider what Christmas means to you, to Jesus, to this world. Might it change your approach to this holiday? May the true meaning of Christmas be restored in you today!
Wishing you and your loved ones (and enemies) every happiness this Holiday Season and blessings in the New Year. Thank you for your prayers, support and encouragement in 2010. We look forward to continuing sharing the Good News in the coming year.
All the best to you and your family,
Matthew W. Gamble, DMin