Christmas ~ Beyond the Manger Scenes

Another Christmas morning will dawn on us in a few days, and in a culture filled with superficial, anemic, transient, and mostly fictional hoopla, our hope and prayer for our readers is that your Christmas experience is deeper and richer than that. When the day has passed and our Christmas contemplations have shifted from making lists and formulating plans to reflections on how it all turned out, our hope is that Christmas will have left all of us spiritually stronger and with a deeper appreciation for what the coming of Jesus means on a personal level.

Easier Said than Done ~
That’s an easy wish to express, but accomplishing it requires that we consider Christmas in a way that extends beyond the familiar, superficial elements of the story. It requires, of course, that our reflections of Christmas be centered on the Biblical account and not relegated to nostalgic childhood memories or another viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life, Rudolph, Polar Express, or Elf on a Shelf. But the human drama and trauma associated with the story can so captivate us that our perspective becomes limited. Visions of Mary and Joseph kneeling at the manger, surrounded by angels and shepherds and related livestock are wonderful, but if we look no further, we can miss deeper truths and be left with a view of Christmas that feels religiously acceptable . . . but certainly not as fulfilling as God intended.

I once heard a preacher casually remark that the only New Testament writers who dealt with the birth of Jesus were Matthew and Luke. It was merely an offhand remark, but it was reflective of a view commonly held among Christians. Given the detailed information that Matthew and Luke provided about that first Christmas, the deduction is easily understood. Unfortunately, assuming that the other Gospel accounts failed to address the event is neither wise nor accurate. There’s another New Testament writer whose Christmas message was delivered from an entirely different point of view. Not only did John not ignore the birth of Jesus, he dealt with its core significance in a way that no one else did. He condensed into a few sentences the truth about the coming of Christ that comprises one of the most profound revelations in the entire Word of God. To miss it would shortchange our view of Christmas and rob us of the benefits of its most powerful reality.

A Different Point of View ~
Matthew and Luke both take us behind the nativity scenes and give us wonderful and enlightening details we couldn’t have known otherwise. They introduce us to the cast of characters and unveil the very human challenges confronting those involved in Jesus’ coming. But John goes far beyond all that. He tells us who Jesus was before He arrived in Bethlehem and what it really means when we refer to Him as Immanuel. In direct and uncomplicated language, the beloved Apostle declared that it was not just a divinely anointed baby who invaded the world through a virgin’s womb in that Bethlehem stable, it was God Himself. Multitudes are engaging in some kind of observance of Christmas right now, but not everyone will embrace the truth that John revealed about the One born that night. This other view of the Christmas story begins this way:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. John 1:1-3 (NKJV)

There’s no reference here to human development or the birth process. Neither is anything said about regional geography, angelic activity, or details about any of the people involved. John’s focus remained on the singular objective of revealing who Jesus really was. He condensed one of the most profound events ever to take place on planet earth into the following simple statement:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 (NKJV)

Beyond Our Expertise ~
For people who love celebrating events we can personally relate to, and who love creating images of people and things to remind us of cherished moments, John’s perspective of Christmas is problematic. We know how to handle manger scenes. We know about babies and shepherds and livestock, and can even fantasize about what angels should look like, but we don’t know quite what to do to celebrate the idea of God becoming human. The mystery of God indwelling people by His Spirit is challenging enough, but wrapping our minds around the notion that He “became” human is beyond us.

So what does that mean to our view of Christmas and Bethlehem’s most famous night? It means that it’s no longer just a sweet story of a young couple incredibly blessed with a child destined for greatness. It’s a story about a child like no other, a child who would one day rebuke a storm, and the wind would stop simply because He said so. It’s a story about deaf men who could hear again, blind men who could see again, lame men who could walk again, and dead men who would live again, just because He said so. It’s a story about a man exalted beyond imagination who would reach out to the poor, the outcast, the lonely, and the hopeless. It’s a story about the abject futility of the devil’s efforts to subdue Him and the world’s efforts to subvert Him.

One More Thing ~
Most importantly, Christmas is about the only man ever to live a life of unbroken righteousness and who was willing to offer that life in exchange for hell-deserving sinners like us. John had one more thing to say about Jesus that makes His coming personal, and powerful beyond description. He said:

“He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” John 1:11-12 (NKJV)

People love to say that Christmas is about giving, and that’s certainly true, but it’s about receiving as well. Jesus came to give us what we could never achieve on our own. The only question left unanswered is whether we receive it or not. If someone asks a few days from now what we got for Christmas, maybe we could expand our answer to include the gift that can’t be bought with money. May the One whose love for us cost Him everything fill our celebrations with joy and our future with hope.

MERRY CHRISTMAS ~ To all our treasured readers!

“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below.  Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .

  • “The mystery of God indwelling people by His Spirit is challenging enough, but wrapping our minds around the notion that He “became” human is beyond us.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
  • “Christmas is a story about a man exalted beyond imagination who would reach out to the poor, the outcast, the lonely, and the hopeless.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)  
  • Christmas is about the only man ever to live a life of unbroken righteousness and who was willing to offer that life in exchange for hell-deserving sinners like us.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet) 
  • “May the One whose love for us cost Him everything fill our celebrations with joy and our future with hope.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)

    Ron’s new book, “Right Side Up Thinking in an Upside Down World ~ Looking at the World through the Lens of Biblical Truth” is available now! Click HERE for details.

About Ron Gallagher, Ed.S

Author, Speaker, Bible Teacher, Humorist, Satirist, Blogger ... "Right Side Up Thinking ~ In an Upside Down World." For Ron's full bio, go to GallaghersPen.com/about/
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4 Responses to Christmas ~ Beyond the Manger Scenes

  1. Don and Susanne Crain says:

    Great word my Brother, when we cut thru the veneer, we finally get to the truth of Christmas. Thank God that He became flesh and dwelt among us. Without His sacrifice to die our death for us we would not have the full blown truth of the reality of the Christmas message, HE CAME TO SEEK AND SAVE YOU AND ME. BEING LOST AND WITHOUT HOPE. UNLESS HE IS OUR GOEL (Kinsman Redeemer), WE HAVE NO CHRISTMAS STORY. I love the way John told it, the purpose of His coming now becomes the real Christmas story. Thank you for moving away from the norm to tell the real story. God Bless. Merry Christmas.

    Sent from my Samsung Phone.

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    • The clear and powerful message and the faithful testimony infused in your uplifting comments always spark a praise and worship session around here. Hearing from you makes the day brighter and the outlook for tomorrow more optimistic. God bless you for the way you allow the Lord Jesus to reveal Himself in you.

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  2. Indeed! And because we can’t really wrap our heads around it we might be tempted to wrap it in a package we can get our brains around that doesn’t do justice to the magnitude of the reality.

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    • I love your comment, Loretta, and am grateful for the encouragement of knowing you’re out there and working to keep the light of His truth shining. God bless you for the testimony woven into your words.

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