At this time of year, even with all the stress there is during this season, particularly for me as a mom, I am constantly reminding myself of why we celebrate.
You all know that I consider myself a Christian. So for those of you who aren't, please indulge me in letting me write and share this post.
I love God. I am so very grateful and thankful that He loved me so much that He actually sent His very own son, His only son, to earth to save me. Me. Having a son myself, that is just unfathomable to me. It is something I struggle with understanding all the time. But I also don't doubt for a moment that His love is so very great, that He did that for me. And for all of us. Can you imagine sacrificing your own child for others? I cannot.
I listen to the story of Jesus' birth in many different formats these days. Through written word. Through music. Through talking about it with my little boy. And it is exciting and humbling to me each time I glean a new bit of information. A new possibility of what it would have been like for Joseph and Mary as they drew near to Bethlehem and the birth of their son. I used to think it was all angels and beautiful and lovely. But as I've grown older, I realize how hard it was for them. The journey for a very pregnant woman riding on the back of a donkey could not have been easy or pleasant. The stable would not have been comfortable or clean. It would have been cold at night. And she, Mary, would have been young. It must have been terrifying for her. Especially knowing who she was carrying.
For Joseph too. He could not have been very old either. And here he is with a woman he has not truly known yet, and he is taking her to Bethlehem as his wife. Where she will give birth to a child who is not his. And yet he does it anyway, because God asked him to. He has to help her himself during the birth because there probably isn't anyone else to help. I wonder how frightened he was, and I wonder if it was written on his face while he watched his wife struggle to push a new life out of her own body.
But then that baby is born. And they know who He is. Did they know how horribly He would be treated at the end of His life? Did they know that He would be beaten, that He would have a "crown" of thorns jammed onto His head? Did they know He would have to carry His own cross through the streets and up to Golgotha? And that He would be nailed to it and later be pierced to save them? To save all of us?
And the shepherds. What did they think as they lay in the fields, minding their sheep (and their own business for that matter), when all of a sudden they see an Angel of God. Were they scared at first? And then when they heard the multitude of those angels singing together, were they awed? Or were they comforted? I can only imagine they were both. I can only think that there truly has been no other sound heard on earth that was as powerful and awesome and sweet as what they heard that night. Angels singing? Heaven on earth. It just must be.
Then they find the baby. And they are looking at the face of God Himself. Did they know? Did they really know? He couldn't have looked just like any other baby. Could He? And though the wisemen actually came much later, did they realize it too? I suppose they must have. For they brought the gifts that Jesus would need. But He wouldn't need them till later. Do you suppose Mary tucked those things away and much later brought them with her to have ready for use after her Son was removed from the cross? I don't know. My heart aches for her as another mother. But even she couldn't grieve a fraction as much as God Himself must have grieved.
So as Christmas draws closer for me, I will think more and more about this story. And try to piece together what it was like. I will look at the trees, the decorations, the gifts, listen to the music and think about how they mean nothing without the gesture behind it. The gesture that God made for all of us. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. He gave Jesus to us.
It is the true meaning of Christmas to me.