It’s here! Christmas is just a few shorts days away. Are you ready?
If you have been following along over the last month, you will know that this is part three in a Christmas series we have been working on. (You can read part one and part two here.) In this series we’ve been taking Christmas traditions and looking deep to see how they connect to Christ and the Christian walk. Today, we will look at not one, but three traditions: Christmas travel, Christmas gifts, and the Christmas tree.
Many of us travel for to visit family for Christmas. Some only sit in a car for thirty minutes to an hour, while others may have to space their travel out a couple of days. Some take planes. Others prefer a more scenic drive. Whatever your transportation choice, it points us back to a group of men who rode on the backs of animals for two years, with only a star to guide them.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the kings, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”Matthew 2: 1-2 ESV
These were studious men who knew the stars and the prophets. So when a new star appeared in the sky, the knew it was related to God’s promise to his people. Without question, they packed their belongings and headed out, likely full of anticipation over what or who they would find at the end of their journey.
So this week, as you load up your car or pack your bags for the airport, remember these men who had such faith that they were willing to go into a literal unknown in search of the King of kings.
It would be wrong of me to ignore this tradition as it, at least in American culture, plays a big roll in our celebration.
You know how the story goes.
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the Child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.Matthew 2: 10-11 ESV
How often do we find ourselves giving out of obligation? How often do we think things like “Ugh…I still have gifts to buy”? Probably more often than we realize. But these men, kings as some refer to them, didn’t have to give anything this this poor boy in Bethlehem. Yes it may have been custom to give gifts to a newborn in the royal family. But they could have just left the treasures on the camels when they saw he was just a peasant. But they didn’t do that. They gave generously and in doing so, whether they realized it or not, prophesied who he was and what he would do.
But gifts hold more meaning than just a reminder that the wise men brought treasures to Jesus. They hold the reminder that Jesus is the greatest gift ever.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.John 3:16 ESV
Like a parent to their child on Christmas, God gave us his Son. He wasn’t wrapped in fine blankets, but in rags. He didn’t sleep on a firm mattress, but on a bed of hay. We didn’t deserve Him. We did nothing to earn Him. In fact, we didn’t really know we needed Him. But He was, is, and always will be the greatest gift ever because He made a way for us to spend eternity in the presence of our Father.
So this year, as you finish your shopping, wrap packages, and open gifts, remember that you’ve already received the most wonderful gift of all.
The Christmas Tree
There are many fun little fables about why the fir tree was chosen as the Christmas tree. In reality it probably had something to do with the fact that all the other trees were bare in December. So if there is no direct link to a tree in the Biblical Nativity, what connection can it have to Christ? Maybe the most life changing connection ever.
See, there is no specific mention of a tree in the Christmas story. But there is one mentioned at the end of Jesus’s life. A tree that had been cut down and shaven into a long, heavy beam that was meant to be carried on the backs of the condemned, up a hill to their death. It was on a tree that Jesus, with arms outstretched, would literally be nailed to then hoisted up so that His humiliation and agony could continue. It was on that tree that Jesus would experience the greatest loneliness He would ever know. What better way to celebrate the coming of the Messiah than to have a physical reminder of the reason for His coming?
So as you sit and enjoy the beautiful tree you have sitting in your living room, let it serve as a reminder of what Christ did for you. Just as the tree was torn and left naked to bare the bodies of the condemned, so was Jesus. Just as your tree is (likely) alone with no other trees in the house, so our Savior was left alone by His Father. And just as the Christmas tree is evergreen and unchanging, so too is Jesus. He is the everlasting God. He always was, always is, and always will be.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
As you celebrate Christmas this week, remember that every element of you celebration can point to the gift we have in Jesus Christ our Savior, we may just have to get a little creative to see the connections.
I pray you have a wonderful Christmas week, filled with family friends and fun, and I see you next year!