The Christmas season is full of stories. There are favorite movies like “White Christmas,” “A Christmas Carol” and “Elf,” Santa Claus and reindeer, and lots of traditions that go back many, many years. All of these stories share messages of hope and cheer, good news and happy days, giving and serving — and they all encourage us to look forward to a bright future.
The reason that all of these stories have similar themes is because in one way or another, they are all a reflection of the very first Christmas story — the true, real life one that happened two thousand years ago in a small rural town called Bethlehem. (The story is told throughout the Bible, but if you’ve never read it for yourself, a great place to start is Luke 2.)
The date was sometime between 3 B.C. and 6 B.C. in Israel. The Roman Empire, which controlled the region at that time, was requiring that everyone return to their hometown so that they could complete a census.
There was an engaged couple who were among the many people who had to travel home to complete their part of this census. The couple, a man named Joseph and a woman named Mary, were not well-known or uber successful. They were regular people who lived in a small town. Because they were engaged, they headed together to Joseph’s hometown, Bethlehem.
As Israelites, both Mary and Joseph had grown up learning the history of their people through the Scriptures. Israel was a very small nation surrounded by great world powers – and yet, God had always protected their people. In fact, God, had promised that a savior would one day come and save them. No one knew when that would happen, but generation after generation, the people of Israel waited with hope for that day.
Months before Joseph and Mary set off on their journey to Bethlehem for the census, one of God’s angels appeared to Mary with a very surprising message. He showed up out of nowhere one day to tell her that God was not only pleased with her, but had chosen her to be the mother of the savior that everyone had been waiting for! And while that may have been a great honor to Mary, she was confused about how that could happen because she was most definitely a virgin. The angel told her that through the power of God, she would become pregnant. This baby was God’s Son and He was to be named Jesus because He would one day save His people. And because Mary had grown up knowing these future promises of God, she believed the angel.
Months later and nearing her due date, Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem for the census. Because so many people had come to town for the very same reason, there was no room available at the town’s inn. Now in labor, the only option the couple could find for a place to stay and have the baby was in the inn’s stable. So there, in a cave among the animals, the long-promised and long-awaited savior, Jesus, was born.
A few miles from that stable, a group of shepherds was laying out in a field. It was night and they were there to make sure that their flock was not harmed or picked off by animals or thieves. All of a sudden and out of nowhere, an angel appeared in the sky above them. Shocked by the angel, they were completely terrified, but the angel quickly told them that they had no reason to be afraid. In fact, they were about to receive some of the best news ever: that very night, a savior, THE Savior that they had been waiting for, had been born. The angel told them where they could find this baby and in excitement they got up and ran to find Him.
And it was just as the angel had told them: the baby was in a manger, wrapped in strips of cloth, a fulfillment of God’s great promise to them. After seeing the baby, the shepherds told everyone they met that God had indeed kept His promise and sent their Savior.
That Savior, Jesus, grew up and as God’s Son, one day gave His life for the whole world. Only a true Savior could do this — and because Jesus was the Chosen One sent by God — He could. He was crucified by the Roman government, died and laid dead in a tomb for three days. Then, by the power of God, He came back to life. Many people witnessed His death and then saw Him alive again.
Jesus, having come from God and entered human history as a baby, grew up and fulfilled the promise of being a Savior. Through His death, every person on earth can be saved and can know God personally. Because of Jesus, every person can have hope and cheer, good news and happy days, can look forward to a bright future. Through a relationship with Jesus, we can live the great joy of Christmas every day. That is what Christmas is really about.
If you’d like to hear more about the first Christmas, check out this sermon on the events surrounding that day.
Celebrate Christmas Eve at Christ Chapel
Tuesday, Dec. 24
Planning to be home for the holidays? Celebrate with us at Christ Chapel! We’re making the day a fun and festive one for everyone: services last 50 minutes and feature live music and a seasonal message. Once the service is over, you can stick around for holiday treats, photo ops and more. Click here to get your Reservation Reminders now!