The real story of Christmas

We tell the Christmas story at different times, in different ways. Last night, by candle light, we told the story of the journey to Bethlehem, the homeless baby who was born in a stable, because nobody had room for him and his family. We heard last night about the shepherds and the angels.

Next Sunday, we’ll look at the story of the wise men, the insane, jealous ruler, the special star and the search for the newborn king.

This morning, I want to read you all a different Christmas story. Maybe it’s one you haven’t heard before. But in some ways, this is the real Christmas story.

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days God has spoken to us by a Son, whom God appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.

The Son is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word.

When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

– Hebrews 1:1-4

This is what Christmas is really about. It’s not about elves and reindeer. It’s not about holly and mistletoe. What matters is that we understand that God is real. What really matters is that Christ has come into the world.

A couple of weeks ago, we looked at the whole business of incarnation – what does it mean for the Word which existed before all things to come down and be one of us?

Christmas says that Jesus is God’s invisible Word made visible to us. What Jesus said, what Jesus taught, the things that Jesus did, the people he healed and set free and fed – this is what God wants us to know.

There are no secrets any more. There’s nothing hidden. Jesus said, “Everything my Father has told me, I have made known to you. . .” Jesus said that, in the very same place that Jesus called us his friends. (John 15:15)

Christmas is angels. Christmas is songs. Christmas is gifts and decorations, and light and beauty. But Christmas is also a part of God’s incredible plan. God has a plan for reaching out and healing the world.

I know this morning’s reading isn’t the usual one. But it says so clearly what God is doing.
Jesus is the cute little baby in the manger, resting in Mary’s arms and Joseph’s. But Jesus is also the Christ, the Savior, the Creator, the Redeemer.

It’s a kind of a paradox – the helpless infant, and the all-powerful Savior. That paradox of both power and powerlessness is something we need to live with, even if we don’t always understand it very well. Get used to it!

Today’s reading tells us about the real story of Christmas. It says that Christ is “the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, who sustains all things by his powerful word. . .”

It says that Christ is the one who created all worlds – not just the world we see every day, but also the worlds which we don’t see, the worlds we haven’t been to yet. Christ is so much bigger than we can ever imagine!

The baby in the manger is a true picture. Christ is that. But Christ is also so much more to us.

  • Christ is the Teacher, whose words fill our hearts and our minds.
  • Christ is the Healer who is by us in our times of pain and brokenness. He lays a hand on us, and we feel better right away. He speaks a single word to us, and we’re made whole again.
  • Christ is the Peacemaker, the Prince of Peace. People who make peace the way Jesus does, are given the title, “Sons and daughters of God”!
    Christ is the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for those he loves, who forgives his enemies and wants them to be his friends again.
  • Christ is the Living Water, the fountain springing up from hidden depths that can never run dry, the water in a thirsty land.
  • Christ is the Light, the morning star, the rising sun, the light in darkness, the lamp to our feet, the lighthouse, the reflection of God’s true light.
  • Christ is the Truth, and everyone who is of the truth, no matter where they are, hears his voice.

Do you see what I’m saying? The baby in the manger is only a glimpse of the whole story. It’s real, it’s true, but there’s so much more.

Christmas is like that gleam of light, the crack of a door in a dark room. The gleam of light is wonderful – but the door opens, and we need to walk through the door and open our eyes to the full light of day. Christmas is just the beginning of the story. It’s just starting!

Every week when we meet for Bible study, we’ve been looking way back into the earliest beginnings of the time that people started to understand God. We’re going back to Moses, and the great heroes of the Bible.

We’re going back to the prophets and to the people who wrote all the hundreds of prayers in the Psalms. They understood that God was on the move, that God was up to something.
It wasn’t always clear to them what God was doing, but they knew that they wanted to jump on board. God was sweeping them along, in an unstoppable wave that rolled down like a flood when the time was right.

God really is kind of like the ocean, you know? Sometimes the ocean is calm and quiet. You might hear some little waves lapping on the shore. Maybe not even that. Sometimes you wouldn’t even think the ocean was ever going to move, ever going to change.

There are times like that – long times – in our own lives and in human history. It doesn’t seem like God is paying much attention. It doesn’t seem like God is even moving at all.
But beneath that quiet surface, great tides and currents are always at work. We may not see them, but they’re there. God is like that. God is always moving – except that God’s tides and currents are things like love and grace and mercy. Those movements are always at work, day after day, season after season.

Those forces have been working since long before any of us were here. They’ve been at work throughout our entire lives. Those forces will still be working, long after we’re gone.
God is from everlasting to everlasting. That’s poetry, trying to tell us what forever feels like. Steadfast love. Awesome grace. Mercy without end. That’s God’s business, and it’s been moving that way forever.

So where does Christmas fit into all this? Christmas is like a light on the horizon.

Christmas is like the morning star. Christmas is the dawn of a new day. You don’t know what the day’s going to be like, but you can see that it’s going to be a great one.

On Christmas morning, all we see at first is a baby in a manger, a homeless child in a poor, crowded stable. The family probably didn’t have much to eat – probably only what they had been able to tote along with them as they traveled.

They were tired. They were exhausted. They were unwelcome and unhappy.
They were probably frightened – Mary was so young, and then to have to give birth in such a strange place.

I’m wondering if Mary and Joseph didn’t feel that God had abandoned them, that first Christmas? Where’s our place? Where’s our home? Where’s our support, when we need it most?

How strange if they felt abandoned, if they felt that God was far away, when Christ was right there with them. How strange if God is near us, and we don’t even know it.
That’s what Christmas means. Emmanuel – God with us.

We don’t know everything. We have so much to learn. I have been learning and studying for years, and I feel I’m just starting to learn about God’s love and grace, truth and justice, mercy and peace. I could spend my whole life, and not know everything there is to know about faith and forgiveness.

There is so much more. We are just beginning to learn about healing and health, freedom from all the burdens and prisons we all live with. God has so much more to teach us and to reveal to us.

But Christmas says that God’s time is always beginning anew. God is willing to start fresh with us, and God is willing to start with the simplest and most basic of our needs. God is truly willing to be one of us, just like us. God understands what it’s like to be us, from the inside. Because God came down to be one of us, at Christmas.

That’s all I really want to say this morning. Except to wish that the rest of your day is filled with peace and joy.

I hope you are blessed. And some of your blessings will be unexpected! Some of your best gifts aren’t the ones which are wrapped up.

Merry Christmas. May God bless you, and fill you with light and love.

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