Forget Star Wars. We’re about to celebrate the anniversary of the greatest good-versus-evil story EVER told. And it’s a TRUE story. But it seems to have been lost over time in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. In the shopping, the presents, the baking, the wrapping & unwrapping, the filling of the stockings and Santa’s big arrival. But Santa’s arrival is not the one we should be celebrating, if we’re gonna call this thing Christmas.
Imagine a young teenage girl, morally beyond reproach, who is awakened by an angel one night. She’s terrified. The angel tells her she has found favor with God and that she’ll bear a baby boy. She is to name him Jesus. Does she say, “Uhmmm, no, I don’t think so?” Or “That’s not gonna work for me. I’m trying out for Cheerleading.” ?? Nope. She says, “Let it be to me according to your word.” She says, YES. Imagine how her parents react when she tells them! Or how her friends treat her as her belly begins to grow. Imagine what Joseph, her fiancé (a man who also is beyond reproach) thinks and feels? Imagine how he is ridiculed by his bros. Ever felt completely alone? That no one believes you? Exactly.
Our young heroine travels to see her cousin Elizabeth, an older woman who has tried for years to conceive a baby. They run to greet each other and a baby LEAPS in Elizabeth’s womb! Elizabeth knows this can only mean only ONE thing … “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” Mary stays with Elizabeth and her husband Zachariah for a while, then heads for home.
While she’s away, an Angel appears to Joseph and says, “Don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.” How does Joseph react? Does he say, “Sorry. I can’t handle that” Or “I’m too young to be a father. I need to find myself.” ?? No. He says, YES.
A decree comes from Caesar Augustus, announcing a census that will be taken. Each family must register at their family’s place of origin. So our nearly penniless young couple embark on an arduous journey to Bethlehem. They arrive and find that every hotel, inn and B+B are booked. To make matters worse, our teenage soon-to-be Mama is in the advanced stages of labor. They find a simple stable, filled with animals and a tiny manger which soon cradles God’s most cherished gift in the history of the world … a baby boy. The Savior that has been promised for generations. They name him Jesus; Emmanuel … which means “God is with us.” A star shines so brightly in the sky that it can be seen from MILES away. Shepherds in nearby fields gravitate toward it and its magnetic grace.
Meanwhile three wise men, kings from afar who are gifted in reading the stars, learn of the Savior to be born in the East. They travel to see King Herod (the dark side of the Force). They ask him, “Where is the One who has born King of the Jews? We saw His star in the East and have come to worship!” Power hungry Herod is threatened by this news. So he sends the Magi to Bethlehem saying, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
The Magi begin their journey and soon spot THE star. They are overjoyed. They arrive and behold the King of Kings, presenting him with some of the most precious gifts available … gold, frankincense and Myrrh (all symbolic in the future of our tale). An angel appears to them in a dream, warning them not to return to Herod. Their response? YES. They return home via another route. When Herod learns he has been outwitted by the Magi, he issues an order: kill all the little boys under age 2 in the Bethlehem area. He wants to eliminate his competition.
Our precious young family is resting in the stable when an angel comes to Joseph and says, “Get up. Take the child and His mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill Him.” And Joseph? He says, YES.
The bigger story here? That Baby. He came for a reason. He came to save you and me, and all of us. For the stupid things we do to hurt others or hurt ourselves. For all the lies, the deception, the back-stabbing, the drug abuse, the stealing, the violence. The promise is that no matter what we’ve done, if we just love Him, follow Him—and believe in this story and in that precious Baby … then we can have eternal life.
Don’t believe in this story? Okay. Think of it this way. Is there someone on Earth that you love so deeply that you can’t even think of words strong enough to express it? Your children? Your spouse? Your best friend? Your parent? Can you imagine losing them—and having to live without them? Maybe you already have lost this someone? If you believe in that little Baby, you won’t have to live without them forever. You’ll be together again. That Baby is hope personified. He IS love. He is God’s forgiveness.
Won’t you answer YES?
Make time to share and celebrate the real story this Christmas. The greatest thing we can give our families is hope & faith. It is the present that they will have long after we’re gone.