Christmas is supposed to be white, isn’t it? Here in Canada we expect to have snow on the ground at Christmas time and many of the Christmas cards we receive feature snowy scenes.
Yesterday I began to wonder what scenes people in the southern hemisphere put on Christmas cards. So I asked my wife, “What kind of pictures do people in Australia have on their cards?” “Ayers Rock,” she said. Well why not? A huge rock formation in Australia has as much to do with the birth of Jesus as does snow on the ground in Canada.
Yesterday evening I heard the crunch of tires on snow and then there were young people from church on our doorstep singing carols. Now that does have something to do with the birth of Jesus. Not the snow, but the carols and the good will.
The third stanza of O Little Town of Bethlehem by Phillips Brooks says
How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is giv'n!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heav'n.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.
None of the important people were informed that a baby was about to be born who would turn the world upside down. No religious leader, no political leader had a clue of what was about to happen. The angel Gabriel spoke to a teenage girl in Nazareth who was preparing to get married and forever disrupted her life. The angel then spoke to the man she was about to marry and disrupted his life.
Then the emperor in Rome decreed that everyone needed to be enrolled in the tax register. That meant that Joseph had to return home to Bethlehem; he probably had some property or inheritance there. He took Mary with him and they came to this town of about 300 where everyone knew each other and Joseph was no doubt related to them all.
The Bible does not mention an inn, an innkeeper or a stable. Hospitality is a given in this country and the young couple would have been warmly welcomed. But when it was time for the baby to be born, the upper room was too small for such an affair. Help was called, a midwife and other ladies of the family and the baby was born in the courtyard below, where the animals were kept, and laid in the closest cozy place for a newborn, the manger. Then a group of excited shepherds appeared, telling how their night’s rest had been disrupted by the glorious light of God, angels had announced that Messiah was born and told them where He would be found.
It didn’t take long and the story began to be embellished, supposedly in ways to help us understand what had happened. Mostly they transform Jesus into a poor, helpless, rejected baby who is no threat at all to our comfortable attitudes and habits.
But He did disrupt the history of the whole world. He wants to disrupt our lives, too. For each of us there should be a before and an after; the way we lived and thought before we knew Christ and the way we think and live after we truly came to know Him.