And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2: 8-12 NIV
Do you have a December birthday? Yesterday was mine.
Some years all the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations overshadow my birthday celebration and I feel overlooked. Have you felt this way?
But yesterday was a lovely day full of good wishes and gifts from friends and family. And in the moonlight, my husband and grown children prayed over me around a glowing fire.
This morning, as I turn my thoughts to Christ’s birthday, I wonder how Mary felt the night she went into labor and gave birth to Jesus. We’re told shepherds keeping watch over their sheep at night were the first to be told of Jesus’ birth—so apparently Jesus was born at night.
Did Mary sit around a fire to keep warm as she waited for the next contraction? What filled her thoughts? Vulnerable, tired, afraid, and in pain—did she feel sorry for herself? Did the events of the past nine months overshadow her confidence of Gabriel’s message as she squatted on the ground in a foreign place?
Then it was time to push and Jesus entered the world—her baby boy was born! As she held him to her breast what thoughts now filled her mind? Did holding Jesus bring her the same wonderful, satisfying sensation of being loved and needed by a child I have felt? Or was her experience even more than I can imagine?
Did the author of love, love his mother with a truer, purer love than our own children will ever be capable of imitating? When she comforted Jesus, was she comforted? When she met his needs, did her heart swell with a fulfillment we will never know? Did his perfect love, cast out all of her fears?
Jesus’ birthday was the inauguration of God’s personal demonstration of his love for us. He did not come as a judge, although many think of him as judging them. He did not come as a conqueror, although many assume he came to avenge. He did not come as a celebrity, although the angels and the wise acknowledged his birth. God chose to show us the radiance of his glory and the exact representation of his nature (Hebrews 1) in a baby born in obscurity. He lived a life of purity, love, and self-sacrifice, and was willingly crucified for the transgressions of all—mine and yours.
This great love of God came into the world ready to embrace, ready to forgive, ready to love us, despite our contempt.
Christmas is all about Jesus, and yet it is really all about us. We have not been overlooked, our significance is not overshadowed. At a point and time in history, God took on human form to show us just how much he thought about us, how much he loves us, how much he is willing to sacrifice on our behalf, how much we mean to him.
“An angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.'” (Luke 2:9-14 ESV)
Perhaps, if you, like me, have a December birthday, we should consider God’s greatest gift to the world in the person of Jesus Christ, a birthday present.