I have heard much of what people think Christmas is, and it is growing to a serious misunderstanding. Yes, it has much that is significant for families and children as well as good will toward others. Yet it is so much more!
To begin you have to go back about 3,500 years. When the Hebrew scriptures were being formulated, the writers realized that one of God’s promises was to to send a special Messiah to bring the Israeli people into a proper relationship with God so they could be confident of his love for them.
The first reference came in Genesis 3 — the promise to destroy the evil one or Satan.
Over the next 1,500 years, many other references would be made to this one person. He would be called Emmanuel, which means God with us. God declared to His prophet that “He himself would come. He and no other.”
This chosen person would be born of a young woman or a virgin. The skies would herald his birth. Kings would come to pay homage to him. He would be humble and called the Good Shepherd and he would save his people from the power of Satan. When the time was right, an angel appears to Mary and told her that she would have a child by the power of the Holy Spirit. Being pregnant, Mary’s life was in danger, but Joseph, guided by an angel took Mary as his wife as he had promised.
They were poor and they had to walk to Bethlehem and there she gave birth to her promised son and named him Jesus, which means, God saves.
It was a poor and humble birth so that he would understand the poor and their difficulties. An angel appeared to shepherds, the lowliest profession one could have, to announce the birth of Jesus. If the poorest could be invited to such a wonderful occasion then anyone would be invited into God’s presence.
In a well-ordered universe where everything works like a clock, a star appeared announcing the birth of a King in Israel and Wise Men (astrologers from the East) very likely representing their rulers (The Star of Bethlehem, Google it) came to the manger of Jesus.
It is a fantastic and joyous celebration because God has kept his promise for all people.
Today, with all the different interpretations of what Christmas is, the basis for them all is that God has kept his promise. He has come with compassion and love for his people and his creation.
He continues to come to all people with what we need most, his love and forgiveness.
This is the renewing power of God and the gift of life now and forever with him. It is no wonder that Christmas is still a wonderful and joyous celebration.
The Rev. Greg Brandvold is pastor emeritus of Bethel Lutheran Church.