Corrupt government, increased taxes, unbelievable words from God, faith for the impossible, questions about character, loyalty to family, the worst hotel room in the world…..
All of these things are realities surrounding the story of the birth of Jesus; the story of Christmas. God sending His own Son into what could be considered the dirtiest place to lay His newborn head: a feeding trough. The King of Kings, turned away from every place fit for human repose, with no room found for Him, was born in a stable and slept in a manger filled with hay.
His entry into the world was not recorded by the paparazzi nor was the occasion heralded by the local politicians but by shepherds who smelled like sheep and told of His birth by campfires. The only visitors of note at His birth was a group of pagan priests and astrologers, who astounded by the witness of heaven to His divinity brought gifts that prophesied of His calling: gold, a symbol of divinity; frankincense, an incense used in worship by a priest, and myrrh, a resin used in embalming. Immediately following His birth, a death sentence was issued against Him by a paranoid king. He lived His early life as a refugee in Egypt, before returning to a small, nondescript city to learn the trade of a carpenter.
He became famous and we know of Him not because He ruled from a king’s palace nor because He led armies, but because of words spoken from hillsides and marketplaces; because of common people healed and dead children raised; because of multitudes fed from a lunchbox and because of His willingness to give whores and thieves a second chance with God.
The life of this Child ends on a cross, killed because He wouldn’t accept a kingdom that left behind the people; one whose foundation was greed and self-indulgence rather than love and brotherhood.
Christmas wouldn’t be a celebration, it wouldn’t even be remembered if there wasn’t more to the story.
Three days after being killed by the most powerful men on earth, this Child who was born in a stable walked out of a tomb to establish the kingdom He had spoken of: a kingdom whose doors are open to everyone who will receive Him.
The angels sang the song of the kingdom on a Bethlehem hillside:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
Yes, that goodwill extends to you.
At this time of year, I’m reminded of these words from the Christmas carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”, written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong that mocks the song
Of peace on earth goodwill to men
God is not dead nor does He sleep
The wrong shall fail the right prevail
With peace on earth goodwill to men