The context for the Christmas studies is the Gospel Accounts. In this case, we’re focusing primarily on Luke 1:26- Luke chapter two.
“CHRISTMAS IS COMING. The goose is getting fat. Please drop a penny in the old man’s hat. If you haven’t got a penny, then half a penny will do. If you ain’t got that, then God bless you.” That was the first poem I ever remember memorizing, and it was done for a Christmas play at the mill where my folks worked when I was maybe four or five years old.
The commercial world always ‘gets the jump’ on us. They’ve been marketing merchandise for weeks, and preparing for the red and green Holiday push for months. Understandably, they have a vested interest in “the Birthday of The King.” I’m not certain of the statistics, but I understand as much as 25 – 30% of the total annual revenue of most businesses is generated during the Christmas season. I’m not all that astute with financial matters, but I would reckon that amounts to a large, large percentage of any business’ profit for an entire year! No wonder they start early and push so hard! Their livelihood hinges on their successful use of the entire season. . . not just the twenty fifth of December that we’re not even certain was the actual birthdate of Jesus of Nazareth.
If theirs is a concern for profit, how much more should we pay attention to this event? Even without being aware of it, everyone who makes reference to a date on our calendar may unknowingly give acknowledgement to The Christ, either December 25, 2008 A.D. (That is an abbreviation of a Latin phrase “Anno Domini” = “The Year of our Lord.”) or B.C. That is the way we in the Western World make reference to the years before Jesus was born. Ours, though, seems to be an overriding reason for clasping this occasion close to our hearts. Jesus’ arrival here is not simply a compelling reason for profit taking, or a means by which we calibrate the passing of years. It marks for Christians the beginning of everything we are about. If Christ had not come, there’d be no such thing as “Christian.” Or “Christmas.”
So, in my own preparation for the celebration of The Nativity, I’ve briefly interrupted my study of God’s “Comeback Kids,” and am trying to get my mind and heart prepared for the celebration of the Coming of The King.” With that in mind, I’ve been doing several things:
One of the things is I’m trying to imagine what it must have been like for Mary. We’ve made, a “Saint” of her, but in doing so I believe we miss much of the beauty, significance and magnificence of this Story. She was probably in her teens (early to mid) at the time she was told she was going to conceive a Son. She was so young. So innocent, so naïve. . . no wonder she was scared badly when Gabriel made his appearance and his announcement. How must she have felt.
If you fail to hear the heartbeat or feel the fear and wonder of the story, I’d suggest that you re-read it. I believe you’ve missed something crucially important.
Lately I’ve spent more time in and out of doctors’ offices and off and on various examination tables and in and out of several x rays, scans, injections, tests than ever before in my life. I’m o.k. in that they’ve found nothing seriously wrong physically! But they still haven’t found the reason for the pain
In all this time I’ve been so impressed with the professional, carefully attentive medical care I’ve received. I’ve been awestruck at the advances in technology. It is amazing what they can do with instruments I didn’t even know existed! And, perhaps most obvious is how well lighted, well equipped, and sanitary the facilities are. Very modern. Gleaming clean and bright.
Mary had none of this. God knew what He was doing and ”why.” But Mary didn’t. Neither did Joseph. Nor their parents. Nor her friends nor his. As I try to revisit the Event, their situation strikes me full force. There is no saintly halo surrounding Mary’s face. We see romanticized pictures of Mary making the journey on a donkey, with Joseph steadily, sweetly leading them along. Not that we’re talking about comfortable streamlined transportation to her delivery destination. Painters have been known to take “artistic liberty.” Mary may very well have made the journey on foot, nine months into her pregnancy. On my map that looks like a trip of more than sixty miles ‘as the crow flies.’ On foot. Over rough terrain through territory where robbers and other dangers abounded. There is no evidence to indicate otherwise. There’s no well-prepared facility awaiting her arrival, fully equipped with the best of modern scientific equipment or super intelligent, highly trained, dedicated, caring medical professionals to assure her of proper care. There’s the smell of the barnyard. There’s no specific mention of a “cave” or a “shed,” or any type of covering. The animals may well have been kept out in the open air, with only a crudely constructed lean-to to provide shelter of any sort. The “manger” was a food trough, probably hewn from stone. Not the best of conditions under which to give birth to a little baby boy.
And the financial strain! Consider that, if you will. We’re in what economists are calling the worst such crisis since the Great Depression. On top of that, we still have the unpleasant reality of April 15. But consider this to place the situation in perspective: The Jews were under the heel of a hated Roman emperor. And in that situation, you didn’t send a check to the IRS. You had to pack up and return to your birthplace, register and pay exorbitant taxes to the Emperor. And the local authorities and despised tax collectors gouged out their profit in addition, without regard to the plight of a young carpenter and his young wife who was about to burst with child.
If the business world anticipates and PREPARES for Advent, shouldn’t we? Wouldn’t it mean a great deal to you if you re-read the Gospel accounts and try to think what it really must have been like?
Most of what we know about Mary is recorded in Luke 1:26 through the second chapter. That has served as my primary basis for this study. Matthew also records some details. Mark and John say nothing about her at the time of the birth of Christ. I’d suggest that you read all the accounts and see how each treats Christ’s introduction to the World. Compare how each of the Gospel accounts introduces Jesus.
When I began this effort, it was out of a compelling desire to find and share reasons for hope, encouragement, and confirmation of personal worth. And nowhere have I seen greater reason for each than I find in the Christmas Story. The place where Jesus was born was about as poor as you could imagine. Under foreign occupation and domination, this would probably have been the last place you and I would have picked for such an important event. But it is against that backdrop of oppression, abject poverty, cruel foreign domination, and woeful ignorance that Jesus makes his debut! Dark, deep despair provided the perfect setting into which the “Light of the World” could shine so brightly by contrast!
If you’ve felt forgotten, broken, ignored, overlooked, hopeless, defeated…you can stop feeling that way! Right now. And when the night is darkest, lift up your heads. Redemption is near! If you’ve given up hope, think about the timing of this event: At the time when we needed Him most, Christ entered the picture. Suddenly. Unexpectedly. And John tells us that into the darkness of the ancient Middle East, the Light of the World began to shine and no amount of darkness has ever been able to extinguish it.
IF it is true that “God so loved the world that He GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN Son,” how could you ever feel unimportant or unnecessary?
God’s servant, your friend, brother and fellow student ~donkimrey