“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. . .” (Luke 2:1).
We all know the Christmas story; there are some passages from Matthew and Luke that we can essentially recite verbatim. As another Christmas season approaches—resplendent with Christmas pageants, gift exchanges, and readings of Luke 2—it can be easy to rush through the motions of the season without truly reflecting on the importance of Christmas. It’s just another holiday, right? Another December, another month of hot chocolate and Christmas trees and angel-shaped sugar cookies.
The more Christmases we live through, the less meaning they seem to carry. It’s lovely that Jesus came to Earth as a meek baby, and it’s nice to sing about—but how much can we truly reflect on a story we know by heart? After years of celebrating Christmas, what more can we discover about our Savior through this holiday?
Plenty. We may be able to mentally recite the familiar passages from Matthew and Luke even as our pastors read them aloud . . . but that does not, by any means, imply that we know all there is to know about Christmas. For as long as we concentrate on donkeys and mangers and shepherds and wise men, we are neglecting the full meaning of Christmas.
For us to truly reflect on the Christmas story, our hearts must contemplate the throne room of Heaven—which Jesus left to become a humble baby. Truly reflecting on the Christmas story entails gazing upon the beauty of Creation—which God designed in His perfect wisdom, knowing even then that creating us would lead to Jesus’ eventual death. And truly reflecting on the Christmas story involves apologizing to our siblings for the unkind words yelled earlier—because that very sin placed Jesus in a cow-slobber-filled manger and nailed Him to a cross.
If you are wondering how to set apart this season as one during which you truly reflect on the meaning of Christmas, then I challenge you to discover the Christmas story. The Christmas story is not limited to the standard Matthew 2 and Luke 1-2 passages; no, the Christmas story is much broader. I challenge you to read Isaiah 53, and John 1, and Romans 5-6, and Philippians 2 and Hebrews 7 and Revelation 5: passages which exquisitely reveal Jesus’ purpose in coming to Earth. That is, after all, why we celebrate the birth of a baby: because of what that baby would later do.
The standard Christmas story is miraculous and heartwarming, but without an understanding of the full story, it cannot bring true peace and joy. The story of Mary’s encounter with the angel Gabriel must be understood with Israel’s longing anticipation for a Messiah in perspective; the stories of the shepherds’ and Magi’s worshiping baby Jesus must be pondered in context of what that baby would later accomplish; the story of King Herod’s fury and desire to kill Jesus must be appreciated in light of how utterly furious Satan must have been as he sought to eliminate the child threat.
The Christmas story is deeply powerful because the Christmas story is powerfully deep. It concerns so much more than a quiet Bethlehem night. The Christmas story concerns a quiet night thirty years later, when Jesus would kneel in the garden of Gethsemane and weep over the task ahead of Him. And the Christmas story concerns tonight, too. Do we kneel before the Father, as Jesus did all those nights ago? Or do we laughingly sing carols without a thought to what those songs celebrate?
This year, let us reflect on the Christmas story. Fully.
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:14, 17).
Amanda C. lives in East Asia and loves spending time with good friends, traveling and experiencing other cultures, and learning more about the languages and cultures of her own East Asia.