For most of us, the story of Christmas is just that, a story. When we read the accounts of Jesus’ birth in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, everything seems so neat and clean. We can sit in the comfort of our home and read the story and feel all sentimental and warm. In fact, most of our images of Christmas are of families gathering together in joy, peace, and harmony. Christmas is a time when people generally treat each other well. We actually go out of our way to be nice to others. There is much to be said for the positive influence that the Christmas season has on us, even if it is short-lived.
The reality was very different for Mary and Joseph. They didn’t get to read the story in a comfortable setting; they lived it moment by moment. They did not know how the story would end. They didn’t know what would happen along the way. They had to step out in faith and trust God to lead them.
For Mary and Joseph, Christmas was a total disruption of their lives. It would be an understatement to say that the news of Mary’s pregnancy or the edict of Caesar that set them on the road to Bethlehem was inconvenient. The realities of that first Christmas were life changing in every way.
In a day when a girl could be stoned for becoming pregnant outside of marriage, Mary was placed in an extremely vulnerable place. In a time when the marriage covenant was taken far more seriously than it is today, Joseph risked everything to take Mary as his wife. In a time when God had been silent in Israel for 400 years, to believe that an angel from the Lord had spoken directly to you was an enormous leap of faith. The reality of Christmas was anything but comfortable or warm and cozy. Mary and Joseph staked the rest of their lives on the message they had received from God, knowing that no one else would or could really understand.
We are in the enviable position of being able to be spectators to the Christmas story. We can watch it unfold, without the drama of having to face the difficult steps along the way. But I believe that God is inviting us to not just observe Christmas, but to live it ourselves.
John 3:16 tells us, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God sent Jesus into the world to radically change our lives. To have eternal life is to allow God, through the Holy Spirit, to take up residence in our lives. When we place our faith and trust in Jesus, the trajectory of our life is changed, just as it was for Mary and Joseph. The message of Christmas is that God is calling us to carry Jesus into our world.
Mary and Joseph were entrusted with Jesus. It was their responsibility to care for him. They were given the enormous responsibility to prepare Jesus for the day that He would step out of the shadows and into the spotlight of His public ministry. In a similar way, we have been entrusted with the task of taking Jesus into our world. Our job is to prepare the way so that others might encounter Him. As Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
The Christmas season gives us an awesome opportunity to carry Jesus into our world. We do not have to settle with being observers to the Christmas story. We can live out the Christmas story through our lives today. Just as Jesus invaded our world so long ago, He continues to invade our world through each one of us. The message of Christmas continues to ring loud and clear. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11