Christmas Then and Christmas Now
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose, Yuletide carols being sung by a choir, And folks dressed up like Eskimos, conjures up a familiar picture of Christmas celebration and family traditions, whatever yours may be. In a few days many of you will be sitting around a Christmas tree exchanging gifts, observing delight on the faces of those you love, smelling the aromas from the kitchen. But consider how contrasts heighten the enjoyment of most pleasures. Sitting before a warm, crackling fire in your favorite chair seems more inviting when its snowing outside. Hot spiced cider, a good cup of coffee, a warm fire are all the more pleasurable on a cold day. When you are hungry, eating is a greater joy. When you know pain, relief or painlessness is a treasure. And when you are alone and lonely, company warms the heart.
The first Christmas is quite a contrast to the Christmases most of us experience today. We have romanticized the true Nativity story passed down to us in the Bible so that we do not readily think of the pain and discomfort Mary and Joseph endured. What we do know is that the circumstances were dire and severe. The birth was not in the comfort of a home, but in some form of a dirty stable vulnerable to the elements, manure, mice and insects. Young Mary did not have the comforts normally accorded to most mothers giving birth; nor for her first birth, the assistance of her mother. She had Joseph, but this was his first experience as a father. They were not people of means. There is no doubt Jesus was born in the humblest of circumstances.
Meditating on the reality of it, contrasting it to our own blessings this Christmas, should bring the warmth of thanksgiving for what God has done for us in this supreme act of love. We would not have what we enjoy this Christmas without the love God conveyed to us in that stable on the first Christmas night. The contrast ought to make our love for Him even greater. But then so should our contrasting our bondage in sin to the freedom of the children of God, our life apart from His love to basking in the light of our Father’s smiling countenance, a Christ-less eternity to “well done, good and faithful servant. The contrasts are of infinite proportion.
We who know the righteousness of Christ, begun in the poverty of a stable when He took on flesh to become our eternal brother, redeemer, friend, and mediator, are blessed this Christmas beyond measure. The poverty, but nevertheless, glory, of that first Christmas, warms our hearts and is our joy.
“Born Thy people to deliver, born a child, and yet a King. Born to reign in us forever, now Thy gracious kingdom bring. By Thine own eternal Spirit rule in all our hearts alone;”¨ by Thine own sufficient merit, raise us to Thy glorious throne.”
(4th verse of Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus,” 1744)
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