A manger rests in the middle of a musty barn. A beam of moonlight shines through the window as I strain to see. I don’t smell a scented candle in the night. No, the stench of barn animals, hay, work and sweat overwhelm me. The people around are not wearing bright, matching pajamas with their initials on it. Their clothes are made of sackcloth and ropes. Worn out sandals adorn their feet. And the candles aren’t fancy, they are functional.
A tiny fist thrashes up into the moonlight as dust swirls against the darkness of the barn. Could it be? Could it be the savior?
The woman looks down at the baby with such love and almost awe. What is she thinking? She tenderly picks Him up and holds him close. He looks up at her with such peace. There is something about Him.
When I think about what it must have looked like when Jesus was born, I don’t think about shiny or sparkly things. I don’t see bows, candles or ribbon. I don’t see red or green.
I see a baby. I see a savior. I see the hope of the world kicking about in a manger.
Today, the scene is not quite so ethereal. The exquisitely divine nature of this miraculous event can be so easily missed.
Three simple words can help you focus on the sacredness of Christmas.
Advent in Latin means arrival. It consists of four Sundays starting with the Sunday closest to November 30th. This year it began this past Sunday, November 27th.
It is believed that Advent was a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the January feast of Epiphany. Advent begins the new Christian year with the twelve-day celebration of Christmastide.
Did you know that the twelve days of Christmas actually begins on Christmas Eve and lasts until early to mid January?
And Thanksgiving is the perfect springboard for the season of Advent. What better way is there to prepare our hearts and minds for the arrival of our Savior than focusing on thankfulness?
Epiphany means appearance, manifestation, or revelation. It is the 12th day of Christmas and the official end to the Christmas season. It is also known as Three Kings Day because the Western world associates it with the visit of the wise men to the baby Jesus.
The feast at Epiphany celebrates the appearance and manifestation of God among us. The idea of God in human form through Jesus Christ is breath taking. How can it be?
Unfortunately, most of us have heard the virgin birth story all our lives, and it no longer thrills us. However, I pray that God will restore awe and reverence in His people this Christmas season.
If we focus on the appearance of Christ and what the manifestation of God in human form means, we can experience His power and presence this Christmas.
Immanuel means God with us.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14
Seven hundred years before Christ lived on earth, the prophet Isaiah first used the word Immanuel when he predicted that Jesus would be born of a virgin and dwell among the people.
If I think about who God is and who we are, it blows my mind. How could HE be with us? God and man are diametrically opposed to each other in so many ways. And sometimes I wonder how He can even stand us.
God with us.
There is such power in these three little words. Knowing that God wants to be with us can change everything. It gives us our worth. It gives us peace knowing He will always be there. And it gives us assurance of our future.
To the follower of Christ, Christmas is all about anticipation and preparation for the coming of our King.
How do we let these concepts dominate in our hearts and minds this Christmas season?
Close your eyes.
Imagine the black stain of sin in your life. In your mind, picture the darkness of humanity. As a species, we have lied, slandered, lusted, murdered, raped, abused, molested, tortured, and perverted everything God has made. Think about a world where everyone is out for themselves.
Imagine being cold and alone, so cold it hurts. And there is nowhere to go to ease your discomfort, and nobody to help you.
Now imagine seeing light off in the distance moving toward you. It takes over the darkness a little bit at a time. You feel warmth as the light grows nearer. This warmth eases the pain of the cold and comforts your soul. The pain turns to pleasure and the cold to warmth.
You start to see a face and the form of a man. You are no longer alone, there is an extraordinary presence with you. Pain, discomfort, fear, loneliness, and despair melt away. You are left with a peace unlike any you have never known.
I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19
Bask in that for a while.
We have to be intentional about setting our minds on the things above (Colossians 3:2). That is how we keep our minds free from distractions during the Christmas season. If we meditate on Advent, Epiphany, and the concept of God being with us, we will truly have something to celebrate.