There’s just one problem for all of us in dealing with the preposterous story of the birth of Christ: it’s true. ♦
In our modern culture many will summarize the life of Jesus as the wise rabbi who preached and taught love and tolerance. He healed the sick and served the poor and then was put to an untimely death for his radical ideas by his dissenters.
This superficial treatment gets worse when we consider the birth of this same man, Jesus.
As the story goes, he was born in a small town of Bethlehem under odd circumstances where local shepherds and travelers seemed to be drawn to his birth and recognized that this child was to be something special.
In fact, it’s actually a fairly preposterous story.
The challenge for all of us, believers and non-believers alike, is that it’s true.
Get it, Got it, Do it, Done
At this time of year there is the proverbial lamenting of the ever-growing commercialization of Christmas, the so-called war against Christmas, the spending, the frenetic pace to get things done, the cards, the food, the gifts, the church service, the relatives, the year-end sales, the year-end close, even plans for New Year’s Eve.
And we all nod in quaint acquiescence at the scenes of the Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, shepherds, angels, the 3 Wise Men, etc. So pretty, so nice, so beautiful, so holy.
Not everyone, mind you, but enough of us Christians and non-Christians who blow through this season with the usual “get it, got it, do it, done” mentality of the season that comes upon us like a recurring, familiar roaring freight train.
How can we do better, even skeptics who want to at least be more respectful of the season?
Consider the Facts
Once one opens the Bible, even out of humble curiosity, a whole world of questions and answers flow out which can keep one busy in research and fact-checking for a lifetime.
Consider the Birth of Jesus, the focal point of the entire Old and New Testament. The Book of Matthew deals initially in Hebrew genealogies to support the historic and legal lineage of this very real person, Jesus of Nazareth. His narrative of Mary and Joseph is in summary form but he deals with the supernatural dream encounter Joseph has with an angel who prophesies about the coming child:
“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)
Matthew links this to the Old Testament prophet Isaiah’s word from 8 centuries earlier:
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Isaiah 7:14)
Additionally, the prediction of this special child was made again by Isaiah, chapter 9:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
What about the 3 Wise Men?
Then dive into the research on the king-seeking priestly sojourners from the eastern region of Persia (note the Bible never specifies “3 kings”) and their encounter with the very real and paranoid King Herod in Jerusalem. One will be amazed at the historic support for the Scriptures and their reach, as well as the uniqueness of this coming child to be born in Bethlehem, less than 6 miles away from Jerusalem. Matthew gives good detail of their wise duping of Herod and his cruel response as prophesied by Jeremiah 700 years earlier.
He also provides the back story to how Jesus and his family were protected through another angelic/Joseph dream leading them to Egypt and then a return to their hometown of Nazareth in the northern region of Galilee.
Holy Mother Mary
But it is Luke, the historian, who writes the gospel that is most compelling in the narrative detail of the amazing Christmas Story. There’s the birth of John the Baptist foretold involving Zechariah and Elizabeth. Then the annunciation (the announcement of the Incarnation of Christ by the angel Gabriel to Mary) is an amazing display of God’s intervention into the lives of ordinary people to achieve what He desires for His larger purposes.
Reading the account and impact on Mary and her humble yet strong and obedient response is an exercise in dealing with facts, the prophetic, and stretched limits of belief. We have to deal with it and confront the reality of a Biblical story that is real, compelling and steeped in historic and justifiable truth.
It’s actually the greatest and most preposterous truthful story ever told.
Do you believe in Christmas?
“With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” – Luke 1:3-4