What does Christmas mean to you?
For so many, the meaning of Christmas has been hidden away behind marketing spin, materialism, even political correctness.
For some it is family, friends, fellowship, reunion, love and intimacy.
For Christians it is a true reason for joy, reflection, thankfulness, and worship.
It’s true meaning is found whenever we stop to meditate on what actually happened.
1 – The Historical Reality v 1-5
The majority of scholars, both secular and Christian, regard the birth of Jesus as a proven historical fact.
There are many proven sources outside of scripture that back this claim up, and it would be extremely strange to discount them based on prejudice.
Pliny the Younger, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Josephus all non-Christian sources from the first century, confirm the reality that Jesus really was born and lived.
Luke, in writing his account of the life of Jesus to Theophilus, researched everything thoroughly so all who read it could be certain it was true (1:3-4). One of the ways he did this was by grounding his account in history, with information that could be checked and verified.
He does this with the very birth of Jesus. He bases it in human history at a specific place, where specific circumstances, brought about by specific people were ordained by God to bring the right timing for the birth of his Son, the Messiah.
Luke mentioned the decree for census from the emperor of Rome, Caesar Augustus. He records the fact that Quirinius was governor of Syria. These facts are not valuable to the story at face value, but because he included them, we have evidence of the truth of the whole story. To deny them would be unreasonable.
The other historical note from Luke is the lineage of Joseph, which he will provide in full in 3:23-38. That David’s line was about to be added to in the very birthplace of David is not just an interesting trivia note either. It was a direct fulfilment of many Messianic prophecies, not just of the throne and kingdom of David, but of Bethlehem being a place of great significance in God’s promises of a deliverer ( Micah 5:2).
Nothing recorded in the bible is there by chance or for no reason. All of it testifies to the fact that God is concerned with human history, and in his timing, reveals himself to all with specific and undeniable truth.
Luke’s account shows us that one of the meanings of Christmas is that God is in control of history, and all of history points to his faithfulness.
2 – The Lowly Birth v 6-7
We complain as it is about the birth process. No matter how comfortable the setting, how relaxing the music playlist, how superb the medical team assisting is, the birth of a baby can be harrowing, stressful, anxious, and hard work, and that’s just for the fathers.
The reality that the eternal Son of God came to earth is one thing, but that he came as a baby seems (to who have experienced birth), is not just surprising, but if we are honest, undignified. Birth might be a miracle, but it’s not necessarily all beautiful. It’s humbling, somewhat undignified, and dramatic. Doesn’t exactly sound like something an eternal God would chose to go through.
Add to all of that the reality that the birth of Jesus took place in a stable, a shed, a dairy, a feedlot. That he was placed in a trough with hay, and wrapped in strips of cloths.If we heard of such a birth, we would rightly say it was not just unhygienic and uncomfortable, but also that it would be true poverty. To have no where but an animal’s shelter to give birth because there was no room, warmth or safety anywhere else.
That Jesus was born in such a way is sung about, endeared, and we get sentimental about. He was not born in a stable to provide us with a sentiment alone though. He was born in such a lowly and humble way to prove that God alone is worthy of faith and worship.
No other God can claim this – to become human, as a child, into poverty and suffering.
No religion in the world offers us the same way of salvation as a God who becomes man.
Islam sees this is blasphemy. Eastern religions talk about transcending humanity. Mythology talks of gods interacting with humans to only serve their own pleasures, but Christianity is unique in that it offers the only faith where God becomes man.
What we learn about the meaning of Christmas from this is that there is a God who is willing to suffer with and for humanity. There is a God who is glorious enough to humble himself.
Christmas means that God has come, and he has come in the most scandalous way known to man – born to a virgin in a stable, but with great wonder all the same. It is undoubtedly shocking when we stop to think about it, but it is undeniably good.
Jesus was not the first king born in Bethelhem. David also was a king of Bethlehem, and he too was overlooked because of his lowliness ( 1 Samuel 16). God values what the world does not.
3 – The Good News v 8-20
That God has come, born as baby into this world, is what scripture declares, witnesses testified to, and millions through history have believed.
This wonderful announcement was first made to shepherds on a hillside near Bethlehem by an angel, who literally said that he was bringing them good news (2:10).
That they had fear is understandable.The answer to their fear though was for them to behold the good news of who Jesus was, a Saviour who is Christ the Lord. Our fears so often pale when we consider God has provided deliverance in such an amazing way, and that he keeps all his promises.
In order for us to properly see how the shepherds were seen at that time, a comparison for in our day would be gypsies or even the kind of people we would see on “Struggle Street”.
These were not people anyone would pay attention to.
It is easy to ignore what God has to say because of the ordinary means he so often uses. If we say that God does not speak, we would be mistaken and blind to some extent. He has spoken, and the greatest word he has given everyone is his own Son.
It’s easy to think that if only the angels had told the message to everyone, all would believe. Even the angel said the message was for all people. But instead only the shepherds hear the message and are the ones who deliver it to others.
The message they shared was one of joy, glory to God and peace to all who believe.
How do all these things come? Joy, glory, and peace are all found in the arrival of Jesus.
The announcement of all these things is one thing, but humanity knows the truth that they are not readily available or accessible by human standards.
Christmastime is often spoken of as a time of peace and general goodwill, and there are many movements and people all over the world who would claim that peace can be made on earth if everyone could just pull together and love one another.
The message from the angels, the message of all of God’s Word is that peace is not achievable by human effort. The message and meaning of Christmas is that there is no peace on earth without peace with God.
Christmas, for all it’s goodwill and sentimental feelings during the season of the year, is actually at its core, quite a different way of looking at life. It doesn’t say, “We can do it, cheer up, it all work out if we pull together.” The bible knows nothing of this perception that mankind can defeat the forces of darkness. It does give sure hope that darkness can be defeated by light, but only by a light that comes from outside of this world to deliver all who believe.
The light that has come into the world is Jesus, and all who behold him, just as the shepherds did, can have joy, peace and live lives that bring glory to God.
So what is the great meaning of Christmas?
It is that we cannot save ourselves.
It is that good news has arrived in the form of Jesus, the Son of God, who was born to die.
The Gospel is both wonderful and terrible at the same time. God comes to us, but he comes to die for us. The only reason the immortal would become mortal is to die, and that is the only way for all other mortals to be delivered from eternal death.
The great thing about Jesus is that he is inescapable. Its a historically proven fact that he was born and lived, died and rose again.
It is extremely fascinating to us that he was born, and born in an extremely humble way. You cannot deny it’s not attractive or intriguing to know that the Son of God was born in a stable.
It is also undeniable that throughout history, no person has more affect on the world through every single century since his birth than he has.
“Your cannot escape Jesus Christ…The angels sang about him, and he is still the theme of the greatest music. Luke wrote about him, and he is still the subject of the greatest literature. The shepherds hastened to behold him, and he is still at the centre of the greatest art.” – Warren Wiersbe
There are only 3 options when it comes to Jesus, as CS Lewis put it – he is either liar, lunatic, or Lord. To say he is one of the first two a matter of personal faith in not accepting evidence that proves the third, but the option you do not have is to ignore him, and you certainly don’t have the option of just liking him.
If he is Lord, is worthy of our faith, obedience and worship. If you are undecided about who he is to you, do what the shepherds did – behold him, adore him as who is declared to be, Christ the Lord.