I wonder what the shepherds said to the people in Bethlehem that astonished them.
“A girl who just got to town gave birth to a baby boy in a stable and is using a manger for his bed.”
Ho hum. How many babies have been born in Bethlehem this year? And everyone knows people are sleeping wherever they can find some space.
“An angel just appeared to us and told us that a baby had been born in a stable. He said the baby is the Promised One.”
Right. An angel appeared to shepherds, not the king. And told them a baby is the Promised One. When the Promised One comes He will save us from the Romans, not lie helpless in his mother’s arms.
But what if their message was the one that all of Israel had been waiting for since the time of King David? Maybe their message came right from the ninth chapter of the book of Isaiah.
“Hey everyone, the baby promised by Isaiah has been born. The one who will break our yoke of slavery is here, the child on whom the government will rest. We’ve seen him, the wonderful counselor, the Prince of Peace. Our rescue has begun right here in Bethlehem.”
Now that is a message that would amaze the people.
I sometimes cringe when I read Christmas cards or hear songs about the peace of Christmas. Many of them imply that the “peace on earth” the angels proclaimed was the end of all wars. But of course, that’s not why Jesus came, although when He returns, He will end all wars. Jesus was born in the midst of a war and His birth was a strategic attack. He invaded enemy territory to rescue His people from their captivity.
C.S. Lewis wrote, "Christianity is the story of how the rightful King has landed, you might say in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in His great campaign of sabotage."
Christmas can be such a sentimental time, with a baby and lights and presents and family. I love the way those beautiful things touch me with joy. I also love the carols that proclaim the birth of the King of Kings. I want to kneel before the manger and worship God Incarnate. But I think it’s good to be reminded that Christmas is about more than a beautiful sentiment or even a miraculous event. The little baby Jesus was born to grow up and die horribly. And that death was God’s victory over the sin that held me captive. Christmas is about God doing whatever it took to rescue me.
When I look for it, I see this message throughout the Christmas story. It’s in the angel’s message and Zechariah’s prophecy when they call Him the Savior. It’s also in the carols that I love. So I’ll close with a verse from one that proclaims it, Hark the Herald Angels Sing:
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Risen with healing in His wings,
Light and life to all He brings,
Hail, the Son of Righteousness!
Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King!