Christmas, for real

When my niece was little, she confused fairy tales with Bible stories. “How many fairies visited Baby Jesus?” she’d ask. Another kid I know loves the “three wizards” who brought those famous gifts to Christ. Oh, boy. It’s an honest mistake, I guess, with imaginary characters popping up as often as real ones. But for us daughters of God, we know that the story of Christmas actually happened. A flesh and blood teenage girl was confused and excited. Dreams and a star had supernatural meaning. And a holy, perfect Savior became a bouncing baby boy. For real.

If I were writing history, I’d have given Jesus’ birth the royal treatment. Wouldn’t you? He deserved it, for sure, but He sure didn’t experience it. There He was, a holy Bethlehem baby, taking his first sweet breaths among the livestock. No trumpets. No fancy birthday announcements. No place for a King. Pretty much His motto for life, huh? All the way to a cross, just thirty-three years later.

This Christmas, take some time to imagine the stable as an actual place: smell it, feel it, hear it. Picture the shepherds as regular guys—like your Uncle Joe, maybe—hanging out with some buddies when angels appear out of nowhere. Real angels lighting up the sky with some really, really good news. Oh, and most of all, look right into the eyes of a baby–the Christ child–who came to earth just for you. Just for you. Isn’t His face beautiful? Isn’t His purpose for being here overwhelming? And aren’t you really, really grateful?

You know, many passages in the Bible predict Jesus’ arrival, but only two tell the actual Christmas story, Matthew 1:18-25* and Luke 2:1-20. Here’s a little challenge for you: Read these accounts over and over until December 25. Wait, let me change that–Don’t just read them; picture yourself there. Hang around the manger for awhile. Ask God to reveal the story in a whole new way, and thank Jesus for doing the unthinkable. It’ll change the way you sing carols. Or the way you view the nativity. A simply miraculous birth. For real.

* Matthew 2 tells the story of the wise men, or the magi, when they visited the Christ child.

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Matthew 1:18-25 (The Message)

The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) Joseph decided to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.

 While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—’God saves’—because he will save his people from their sins.” This would bring the prophet’s sermon to full term:

   Watch for this—a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son;
   They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for “God is with us”).

 Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God’s angel commanded in the dream: He married Mary. But he did not sleep with his wife until she had the baby. He named the baby Jesus.

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