Virtually every December, I take off the shelf my favorite Christmas book; God with Us: The Miracle of Christmas by John MacArthur. I still remember where I was when I first saw and purchased the book. I was standing in the entryway to the college bookstore during fall semester 1989, gazing at the new arrivals (Sometimes I wonder if I spent as much time in the bookstore in those days as I did in class!). Since that day, the book has been part of my Christmas treasure chest. Here’s a quotation that reminds us of the central truth of Christmas.
Christmas should be a time of real joy and gladness, as opposed to the manufactured sentiment and wild revelry that characterizes the way the world observes Christmas. That true joy comes from a realization of what Christmas is really all about and from knowing the One whose birth we celebrate.
We can’t know Him if we don’t understand He is real. The story of His birth is no allegory. We dare not romanticize it or settle for a fanciful legend that renders the whole story meaningless. Mary and Joseph were real people. Their dilemma on finding no room at the inn surely was as frightening for them as it would be for you or me. The manger in which Mary laid Jesus must have reeked of animal smells. So did the shepherds, in all probability. That first Christmas was anything but the picturesque scene we often envision.
But that makes it all the more wondrous. That baby in the manger is God.
That’s the heart and soul of the Christmas message. There weren’t many worshipers around the original manger—only a handful of shepherds. But one day, every knee will bow before Him, and every tongue will confess He is Lord (Philippians 2:9-11). Those who doubt Him, those who are His enemies, those who merely ignore Him—all will one day bow too, even if it be in judgment.
How much better to honor Him now with the worship He deserves! That’s what Christmas ought to suggest.