Of all the images that surface this time of year, my favourite is the nativity. I love nativity scenes, and the Christmas Story. I love thinking about that time, when Mary gave birth to Jesus; she knew He was special and not just any baby. The angel had come to her and explained what His role would be: “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.” (Luke 1:31-32) Mary’s husband Joseph also had an angelic visitation, in a dream. The angel spoke to reassure him that he should proceed with his marriage to Mary: “She will bear a Son and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 2: 21) The prophet Isaiah spoke also of Jesus, foretelling His birth: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel (God with us)” Isaiah 7:14
Imagine, God coming to us in the form of a tiny baby! But the story does not end at that stable in Bethlehem. We love to gaze on that scene, on baby Jesus, so sweet and helpless. But that babe grew up; a man, yet fully God. He walked with humankind, and experienced life as they did. He was Almighty God, yet left the glory of that position to show us what God is like. Not only that, but He gave His own life in payment for the sins of the world.
We love the warm fuzzies we get when we decorate, hang pretty lights, and listen to Christmas Carols. But there is so much more to the Christmas Story than the babe and the shepherds and the wise men. That baby became a man, died for us, and is now alive in Heaven. He was born, not to give us a reason for a Christmas season, but to make a way for us to be reconciled to God. So when you see him there in the manger, fast forward to our ultimate cause for celebration, God’s great love gift to us: He came to die, so that we might have life.