The Unexpected Gift of Christmas
“They said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: “And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For from you will come forth a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.”’” Matthew 2:5-6
“Are you serious? Who doesn’t like Christmas?” asked my incredulous husband, the man who sings Christmas carols in his sleep the day after Thanksgiving.
My brain was already in overdrive, thinking about everything I needed to accomplish over the holidays. “I never said I didn’t like Christmas,” I replied. “It just isn't my favorite time of year; there's too much pressure involved.”
Like most all other celebrations, my anticipation is far more exciting than the reality. I play out scenarios of the event in my mind, imagining the best possible outcome, and get myself completely “psyched” up.
Then, when the event takes place, I’m usually disappointed because instead of finding joy at the moment, I critique and compare it to the preconceived notion I had in my head, and rarely do they match up. Christmastime only exacerbates the situation, bringing out the worst in me.
Last year I asked the Lord to help me find true enjoyment in the Christmas season. I vowed to soak in this magical time with my girls, to relish friends and family with whom we celebrate and to thank God for giving us the greatest gift ever, His only Son, Jesus.
As I read the familiar passages of Scripture telling of Jesus’ birth, I let my mind linger on the verses of Matthew 2:5-6: “They said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: “And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For from you will come forth a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.”’”
The Son of God was born in a stable, probably surrounded by livestock, to parents who had no distinct social standing. No wonder the Jews found it difficult to believe He was the Messiah, the One sent to save them. They had suffered much and looked for a powerful and mighty leader who would deliver them from Roman oppression.
Born in a stable, a carpenter’s son, a friend of fishermen, tax collectors and prostitutes — He seemed in no way royal. Jewish leaders rejected Him and demanded He be crucified as the ultimate imposter, “the King of the Jews.”
Jesus did not rule from a throne in a royal palace surrounded by servants, guards and opulence. On the contrary, Christ came to serve, seek and save, but for reasons and in a manner far beyond anything many Jews ever imagined or understood. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, and only Jesus, the Lamb of God, can deliver humanity by paying our sin debt through the shedding of His blood.
The Jewish people missed out on the greatest gift ever because they expected a particular king but were given another.
But, wait, isn’t that what I do every time the holidays don’t go the way I planned? Don’t I fall apart when the gift I meticulously selected is not well received? Don’t I allow a relative’s remarks to steal my Christmas cheer? Don’t I focus more on the “what” of Christmas than the Who?
Don’t miss celebrating the real meaning of Christmas because you’re blinded by the bright lights of the holidays or, like me, so wrapped up in the worldly demands of the season that you ignore the heavenly miracle of Christ’s birth.
My sincere hope is that you find joy, hope and peace this holiday season in God's redemption plan — that gift which lay in a manger in a stable in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago. Reread the Christmas story, and let the significance of that seemingly insignificant event penetrate your heart and fill your spirit with the joy that lasts for all eternity.
Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your precious Son and giving us the gift of eternal life. Guide us in our thoughts. May we spend our time and energy focusing on the real meaning of Christmas. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
2 Corinthians 9:15, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”
1 John 5:11, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”
Do you ever withhold prayer requests because you feel your problems are insignificant?
What’s one thing that’s heavy on your heart you haven’t brought before God? Take a moment to do so now.