The Christmas story is well-known by most people. Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem for a census. While they were there, Mary went into labor and gave birth to a son in a stable (because there was no room in the inn). His bed became the animals’ feeding trough. God sent angels to tell the shepherds of Jesus’ birth. The shepherds went into Bethlehem, found Jesus, and then went home praising God. At the same time, some wise men saw a star that signaled Jesus’ birth and followed it until they found Jesus. They worshiped him and presented him with gifts, calling him the King of the Jews. (Luke 2, Matthew 2)
What can we take from this account to learn how we should spend our Christmas season? Below are five things I received from reading the Christmas story.
- It doesn’t have to be big or elaborate to be meaningful.
It was celebrated by shepherds who brought nothing and by three wise men who each brought one gift. It’s not how much money we spend, but the heart behind our actions and gifts and who we spend it with that create meaning.
- It’s supposed to be filled with joy.
Both the shepherds and wise men responded to Jesus by praising and worshiping God. Their excitement was evident and leaked into their interactions with others – they couldn’t help but tell others what they knew. Mary treasured the experience in her heart. Likewise, we should have contagious joy from our knowledge and experience of Jesus.
- The purpose is for God to be praised and worshiped.
Praise and worship are the natural responses to receiving the love and grace of God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. After the shepherds saw Jesus, they told other people who were amazed at the news. Many of our Christmas songs are about proclaiming God’s love and goodness and the joy that resulted from Jesus’ birth (Go Tell It on the Mountain, O Holy Night, Angels We Have Heard on High).
- You can celebrate wherever you are with whatever you have.
The first Christmas was held in a barn with animals. There was not the luxury of a private room or even a bed, yet it was still an amazing and significant moment. Gifts are not the defining feature of Christmas, Jesus is. We can celebrate authentically if all we do is enjoy time with friends and family.
- It’s all about love.
Jesus’ birth was God’s response to his love for us and his desire for us to be reconciled to himself and freed from sin. The Bible says there’s no greater love than giving one’s life for a friend (John 15:13). We also know that God sent his son into the world because he loved us so much (John 3:16). Our Christmas season should be marked by love for God and those around us.
Is there anything else you find meaningful from the first Christmas?