It’s easy to become blasé about the story of Jesus’ birth. Like Scut Farcas, Zuzu’s petals, and Charlie Brown’s sad little tree, we’re all too familiar with the facts surrounding the appearance of the Savior, if we celebrate the “holiday” year after year.
To add to our nonchalance, every November, American culture takes Thanksgiving, a holiday rooted in fellowship and gratitude, and turns it into a retail extravaganza, and then turns around and desecrates Christmas in a similar way only weeks later.
Even those of us familiar with the Nativity story are drawn to the quaint details: the frightened, obedient young girl, her stand-up guy husband, the little donkey, the brilliant star. There are even heroes on horseback (or rather, kings on camelback) and a villainous ruler in the birth narrative, almost giving it the flavor of a fable.
Have we, as time and evolution have rendered us so sophisticated, forgotten the meaning of the story? Or worse, have we forgotten that it’s true?
Some years ago, I was privileged to listen to Bishop Robert Barron re-tell the story of the birth of Christ in a way that not only shook me out of my passivity but also shook me to my core. Bishop Barron began by quoting the Scripture that set the historical timeline of the event, noting that it was not “Long ago, in a galaxy far away…” but rather an actual time recorded in history within the framework of the noted ruler of that time. He pointed out that the “swaddling clothes,” in exactly the same way we wrap a newborn to this day, are designed to bind the baby – and how Christ was “bound” for humanity; yes, as man He possessed free will, but more importantly (and luckily, for us) He was here for a purpose. Bishop Barron pointed out the significance of the manger – a stable where animals ate, and a word that literally means, “to eat,” – and how Jesus would become food for the world. He contrasted the robe of King Herod with the rags of the King of Kings. And on and on, until, at the end of the DVD, my Bible study class sat in silence and awe: this priest had taken the story so familiar to us and made us see it in a completely new light.
Maybe, instead of being overwhelmed by fighting the crowds at the mall, addressing cards, finding exactly the right gift, making dozens of cookies, cooking dinner for 27 people, and ingesting a little too much holiday “cheer” at the company party…
Maybe – we ought to be overwhelmed by the facts.
That God, creator of the universe and everything in it, made a conscious decision to come from heaven to earth, in the form of a helpless child.
That He lived as a human being, and thus knows exactly what it’s like to be us.
That He spent his entire life in teaching and in service to others.
That two of the things He talked about most were love and forgiveness.
And that He later died a painful, shameful death; so that when we die, we might have a place with Him in his home and ours – heaven.
Imagine the feet of the Lord, walking on the earth where we live.
Let earth receive her King.