Christmas is just about two weeks away. Houses are lit up with lights, trees adorn our living rooms, Christmas meals are being planned, and shopping malls are jammed with people looking for the perfect gifts for loved ones. The Christmas season is a time filled with joy as we celebrate the greatest Christmas gift, the birth of a tiny baby in Bethlehem.
We all know the story of that first Christmas--the angels, the shepherds, the wise men, Mary, Joseph, and the most important part, the baby lying in the manger, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As we prepare our hearts for Christmas, what lessons can we learn through those who played a part in the beginning of the greatest story ever told?
From the angels, we learn the importance of praise. On that first Christmas, after the angel messenger announced the birth of Jesus to a group of shepherds who were tending their flocks, the sky was suddenly filled with the sound of praise as a heavenly choir of angels appeared, giving glory and honor to God for what He had done. The angels knew what the birth of Jesus meant to mankind and, even though it wasn't for their benefit, they praised God for it. Since we do benefit from Jesus' birth, how much more should our hearts be filled with praise?
From the shepherds, we learn that we should put God first. After hearing about the birth of God's promised Messiah and witnessing the praise of heaven, they immediately went to Bethlehem to see for themselves. They didn't say, "When we punch out of work, let's head over to Bethlehem to check it out." They just dropped what they were doing and went. The shepherds also teach us about sharing the gospel--the good news. After they had seen what the Lord had done, they told everyone they met what had happened and what they had been told by the angel. Everyone they told was astonished. And they didn't even know the rest of the story!
The wise men teach us the importance of seeking God, as well as the importance of giving. They traveled from distant lands to find the child whose coming was foretold in the Scriptures. They followed the star that led to Bethlehem and, when they found Jesus, they bowed down and worshiped Him. They then presented Him with gifts. We should always be seeking the presence of God and giving Him the worship that is due Him. And, in worshiping Him, we should give Him not just of our abundance, but of our lives as well.
From Mary and Joseph, we learn obedience. When the angel Gabriel told Mary that God had chosen her to give birth to His Son, how easy it would have been for her to say, "I appreciate that but look, I have a lot to lose if I do this. I mean, what will my parents say, what will people think of me if I show up pregnant when I'm not even married yet? And, what will Joseph think?" But Mary was obedient to God's will. And, what about Joseph? It would have been easy, understandable even, for him to walk away from the whole situation. But, like Mary, he chose to be obedient to God's will.
Finally, there is Jesus. We learn so much from Jesus, but one thing that stands out is love. Jesus came to the world as a tiny, fragile, vulnerable, dependent little baby. He stepped out of His heavenly glory to become like one of us, to feel the same pains and hurts that we do, to have the needs that we do. And He did this so that some 33 years later, He could give His life for us. Why? Because He loves us more than we can possibly imagine.