Well, everyone, here we are, on the Eve of Christmas.
I can’t believe Christmas is tomorrow!! It’s crazy how quickly the year has gone, more so this first semester of college.
Last night I fell asleep on the couch downstairs after having a two hour discussion with my mother. We talked about how, if we had given up during past years, when our circumstances had seemed hopeless, if we had let ourselves lose faith in God, then our family would be separated. It’s crazy how much a year can change…it’s even crazier how much God can change others.
While I was sleeping, I had a terrible dream. If you’ve ever watched King Kong (2005), then you’ll remember how slimy and disturbingly horrid the scene with all the bugs and slugs and yuck on the island, just before Jack Black and his crew were rescued by the ship captain. That’s what I was dreaming about. Every five seconds I would wake up to this absolutely disgusting noise, like there were bugs crawling or something slimy like that. Around five in the morning, when I woke up for the last time, I finally stayed awake long enough to figure out what I was actually hearing:
It was Sophie, my Saint Bernard, snoring and then cleaning her jowls thoroughly with her tongue. Before I could throw up because of how disgusting the noise sounded, I sprinted out of the living room, up the steps, and into my own bed. Talk about a nightmare!
I woke up around noon today, realizing that it was Christmas Eve (OH MY GOODNESS IT’S CHRISTMAS EVE). Mom and I had made a schedule for the kitchen; she would bake her pound cake and Gracie would make sugar cookie dough in the morning, and then in the afternoon, after mom was finished with her baking, the kitchen would be mine so I could bake apple cake.
As I sat up in bed, I grabbed my Bible, wanting to spend time with God before I had to be busy on the Eve of His birthday. As I flipped through my Bible, the image of a billboard in Times Square flashed through my brain, and I was curious as to what insane person put it up. In Times Square, there is a billboard that has a picture of Santa Claus above a picture of Jesus on the cross, wearing the crown of thorns. Underneath Saint Nick it says “keep the merry” and underneath Jesus it says “dump the myth.” Wow. I wonder if the atheists that put up that billboard did their homework on the history of Christmas, the real history, or if they just watched the Hallmark Channel.
While a lot of traditions surrounding Christmas (decorating a tree, giving presents, having parties, etc.) along with the wonderful legend of Saint Nicholas (a story that I think is really cool and interesting) are pagan by origin, the reason for Christmas still reigns solid as a celebration of Christ coming to earth in the form of a baby boy. The claim that Jesus’ birth, death, resurrection, along with every prophecy laid out in the book of Isaiah concerning the Messiah has nothing to do with Christmas is pretty stinkin’ ridiculous, friends.
Anyway, I read through Luke chapter two this morning, reminding myself of why we even celebrate this holiday. The Bible doesn’t give specifics concerning Jesus’ birth such as date, time, etc., but it does tell us where, how, and vaguely when. Jesus was born in a manger, in a stable, more than likely amongst animals, considering it was part of an inn housing many people; those people would have placed their animals (donkeys, camels, sheep, whatever) in the stable around the manger. It would’ve been smelly, dirty, covered in animal…well, you know…stuff, and very uncomfortable. The hay would’ve been scratchy and the air would’ve been stagnant and cold, since the weather in Israel (anywhere, really) tends to be hot during the day and cooler during the night.
That answers the ‘where.’ The ‘when’ is during the time Caesar Augustus ordered a national census where every man went to his home town or city to partake. This particular census, named the Census of Quirinius, was taken in the year 6/7. The history surrounding the census implies this time period, when Joseph was taking Mary, who was bearing Jesus, to Bethlehem, was chaotic, and some people were resisting Augustus, mostly because censuses are taken for taxation purposes and the fear of taxes being unfair, unjust, and too high, were a major concern.
So not only were Joseph and Mary sleeping in a stable, Mary giving birth to the Son of God, surrounded by all sorts of uncomfortable smells and surfaces, but they were also probably stressed about the census, about the future, about how all of this was going to effect them and their son.
I imagine this connects with a lot of people pre-holidays. I’m not meaning to water down or disrespect the magnificence of which Mary and Joseph were a part, but just think about it. Tons of people are stressed and freaked out before Christmas ever actually gets here; they’re buying gifts, planning parties, talking to family members, sending cards, and spending money. Mary and Joseph were probably, like many of their family members and neighbors, kind of stressed out about getting to Bethlehem, partaking in the census, learning about their new order of taxes, and on top of all that they were giving birth to the Son of God. Yeah, stressed.
But similarly, I imagine that Mary and Joseph forgot all about their stress when Jesus was born, just like, when we are finally knocking at the dawn of Christmas day, and our hearts are reminded of the joy that comes with Christmas, the meaning behind it all, our stress and worry and fears suddenly melt away with the coming sun. New hope has been brought; a new day has begun.
Another thing I thought about while reading this, other than the history and the parallels between this cosmic event and the events of everyday life, was how Jesus was born. Granted, this question of ‘how’ is similar to ‘where’, but bear with me. Jesus was born into very humble and very dirty beginnings, into very unworthy clothing (literal clothing). How crazy is that? Here is this cosmic thing happening, the COMING OF THE MESSIAH, something that has been eagerly awaited FOREVER, and what happens? The Messiah is born without a sound, without the world stopping, without the stars exploding and the sky falling, without any real stir. How quietly our Savior came.
This observation reminds me yet again of the passage in 1 Kings 19, where God is speaking to Elijah. He doesn’t speak to Elijah through fire, through earthquake, through wind, but rather through a whisper, a quiet path as opposed to a glorious entrance. And I ask myself: why? Why did God come into our world so subtly, without letting everyone know He was finally here to save us? And I know the answer; God came quietly, so that in the future, we would learn to be quiet, though it would be expected of us to be loud.
Sometimes, during life, we want to be showy; we want to take credit for things that are better left anonymous or unnoticed. But God, not only through Jesus’ teachings on earth but especially through His own birth, His own manifestation to mankind by becoming a man, shows us that sometimes (most times…maybe even every time) things work out the way they’re supposed to when we’re quiet. If God had announced His arrival to the world by forcing every person to lend an hear or an eye to witness His coming, then the story of Jesus’ journey and ministry on earth would be completely different; the prophecy would have been altered and possibly unfulfilled; there would be no salvation. God did everything perfectly, from His quiet entrance, to His private exit.
“But Hunter, what about the angels talking to the shepherds and the wise men?”
Don’t worry I haven’t forgot about the glory of the Lord scaring the poor shepherds out of their sandals. The thing is, only the shepherds were recorded as having witnessed the angels, the declaration of God’s arrival by a heavenly host. The wise men discovered Jesus by following a star, quietly making their way to Jesus to see that the Messiah was truly there. The rest of the world went on without blinking, without being aware of the glory it had become host to.
After being reminded of this truth, the day was a lot more enjoyable. I suddenly didn’t care about the gifts I had bought everyone, the way I wrapped each and every present, how my hair looked, or even how Christmas dinner went; I was able to focus on just loving my family, regardless of everything else, because I remembered God’s love for me.
We all baked, we joked; Gracie and I sang the Spice Girls, Tobymac, and Michael Buble in the kitchen. We washed dishes, we laughed, we danced around. At one point I was sitting on the floor of the living room, waiting for the green bean casserole to come out of the oven, and I called Sophie over to me. Well, this is her first Christmas with our family, so she’s been really hyped up lately. She comes running into the living room and slides right into my stomach while simultaneously flopping into my lap.
I don’t think Sophie realizes that she’s a one-hundred-twenty pound Saint Bernard.
We decorated our tree, like we always do on Christmas Eve; we put out cookies and milk and a letter for Santa, taking part in the fun legend of Saint Nicholas. We even threw reindeer food out into the front yard (it has glitter in it so the reindeer can see it :D). Jimmy, in his letter to Santa, talked about the true meaning of Christmas, how God had given us the greatest gift in the world when He sent His son. It was really cool to read and made my heart glow a little bit 🙂
Man…God loves me. He’s so willing to remind me of things I should never forget. He’s so ready to teach me things I’ve already learned. He’s so prepared to encourage me when I should expect His best and trust that everything He does is good, just, and pure. God, despite myself, has given me everything I could ever need, want, or have. He’s given me life worth living, hope worth having, and love worth pursuing.
Merry Christmas everybody 🙂
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” —Isaiah 9:6, ESV