One of the most famous Christmas stories in the English language is “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. It tells of a man, Ebenezer Scrooge, who was very stingy with his money, and who hated Christmas. But in the story he is visited by three “spirits” in a dream: the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, who reveal to him how mean and stingy he has been toward other people. Following the dreams he promises to live differently. The book closes by saying that afterwards “it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well.”
How do you celebrate Christmas? What is Christmas really all about?
Our scripture passages reveal the true origin and meaning of Christmas.
Jesus Christ was born into this world in a real place and time in history. He was a “flesh and blood” man born in the days of the Roman Empire; following a decree which went out from Caesar Augustus, a Roman ruler whom we know much of; at a historical time when Quirinius was the governor of Syria. Thus in a real time, in a real place, with real historical people, Jesus Christ was really born. And importantly, He came to earth in an humble manner. He was not born into a king’s palace, but into a poor family. His “cradle” was a manger, a place from which the animals ate their food. This reminds us that Jesus came for ALL of the people of the world — even the poor and lowly. While Jesus was a real baby, He was far from ordinary. His birth was proclaimed by angels from heaven. He was unique. The angels proclaimed:
“Today in the city of David, a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11
This scripture does not describe the birth of Jesus as much as it does the response of others here on earth to His birth. It is interesting to note the different ways people responded to the birth of Jesus:
— The Jewish leaders “knew” the right answer about where the Christ was to be born: “in Bethlehem of Judea”, they said. They quoted Micah who predicted Jesus’ birth 700 years beforehand*. But there is no evidence that these men ever did anything about what they knew about Jesus, or that they ever went to worship Him. It was an intellectual response only.
— King Herod “pretended” to want to go and worship Jesus, but he really wanted to kill Him, to protect his own rule over the people. His was a hypocritical response.
— The Magi were “seeking” to find Jesus. When they found Him, theirs was a sincere response of faith. They worshiped the baby Jesus for who He was: the true God, who had come to earth to be the Savior of the world!
- What are some ways that you have seen or heard about how different people or cultures celebrate the Christmas holiday?
- What difference would it make to you if the baby born in Bethlehem that day was not only a real human being, but also God?
- What are some of the things that the magi did in Matthew 2:11?
- Which of these do you feel was the greatest response to the birth of Jesus ~ the Jewish leaders, Herod, the Magi?
stingy – unwilling to give, not generous
scripture – words in the The Holy Bible
manger – where animals eat
unique – one and only
Savior – Jesus Christ
Micah – a prophet in the Old Testament
intellectual – mental knowledge
hypocrite – someone who pretends to be what they are not
Magi – wise men from the East
sincere response of faith – to believe something with a pure heart and to believe personally
*Prophecies concerning Jesus
Micah 5:2 and many other verses were written centuries before Jesus was born to tell of His coming.