By Debra Whittington
“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us”. Matthew 1:21-23
As I sit at my computer and write this column, Christmas is only two weeks away. The weather outside is more spring-like than that of winter, but in my heart is the spirit of Christmas. Everywhere I go, people ask if I am ready for Christmas and I can honestly tell them that I am.
Christmas is so different for me now than it was when I was a child. When I was a child, I had a bad habit of shaking the presents under the tree trying to figure out what I was getting for Christmas. On Christmas morning, I couldn’t wait to open my presents. Over the last few days I thought about some of those presents and what made them so special. While I still have a few of those presents, many of them wore out or were given away. I can’t even remember many of them. Most of the presents I do remember are because of the ones who gave them to me. The presents were accompanied by love, which was more precious.
Even if I put all of the Christmas gifts together they couldn’t even begin to come close to the greatest gift of all time. The gift I am referring to is Jesus Christ, given by God to bring salvation to the entire world.
In the movie, “The Christmas Box”, the elderly Mary asks Richard if he knows what was the first gift of Christmas. Richard jokingly replies a tie. Mary is frustrated with him and asks him to think about it. Richard later tells her he thought it was the gift of love. Mary tells him that he is on the right track and to think about it some more. Finally it is as though a light goes on and Richard tells Mary that he realizes that the first gift of Christmas was a child.
The gift was a child, but not just any child. This child was Jesus whom the angel told Joseph would save the world from their sins. This was the child the world had waited for, the child that the prophet Isaiah wrote about, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace”. (Isaiah 9:6)
Looking at my nativity scene, I see the sweet serene face of Mary as she gazes adoringly down at baby Jesus. Standing on the other side of the manager is Joseph, calmly posing in his regal robe. The shepherd carries a lamb in his arms. Finally there are the Wisemen who come bearing gifts for the newborn king. The birth of Jesus was far from the ideal picture the nativity scene portrays. The journey from the time the angel appeared to Mary until the birth of Jesus was a difficult one with many hardships along the way.
Watching the Christmas musical at church, I thought about the girl who played the part of Mary. It is hard to imagine that the mother of our Lord was about the same age when the angel first appeared to her. She was so young and yet she was willing to be used by God.
The time after the angel appeared to Mary and then to Joseph wasn’t easy for them as I am sure they were subjected to ridicule from the people of Nazareth. This was followed by the long, hard journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
The journey of about 95 miles, depending on the route taken was a difficult one. If they traveled through Samaria, their journey would take them up 2,500 feet through a treacherous mountain road. It was unlikely that they followed the banks of the Jordan River because of the added miles.
Once the young couple was in Bethlehem, there was no room for them at the inn. Instead they stayed with the animals and it was there that the first and greatest gift of Christmas was born. It was there that God poured out His love for the world. “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”. (John 3:16)