Christmas is upon us.
Unfortunately, this news is greeted with mixed emotions in the 21st century. Not least because a modern day Christmas is crazy stuff. It is full throttle. Pedal to the metal. Flying on all cylinders sorta stuff.
And naturally, our priorities are angled towards other things. Amongst the stuff, we tend to drop God down our list of priorities.
In fact, a prevailing view in society today is that Christ has lost relevance. This is a vague objection often blindly asserted in public places. It is this mammoth misconception founded on the belief that because times have changed, we don’t need God anymore.
Hate to be blunt, but you couldn’t be more wrong.
At Christmas we celebrate God putting us at the top of his priority list.
Christmas isn’t our busy lives stepping into God, but God stepping into our busy lives. Identifying with us. Sharing in our sufferings. Showing the deep love he has for us.
And if that doesn’t totally blow you out of the water, nothing will.
Christmas isn’t some watered down, lame fairytale we tell children before bed. We are celebrating the very presence of God here. God’s presence gives the world relevance. You’re unlikely to believe this if you don’t spend time seeking it.
And I’m going to show you why.
At the birth of any baby, the first people invited to see the little dude or dudette are significant. VIP backstage pass sorta thing. It is usually reserved for close friends and family members.
We learn a lot about Jesus by the first people invited into His presence. God’s VIP list consisted of a poor couple, some lonely and inadequate outcasts, and three men sent by a corrupt king. A bit random to say the least. Not exactly hard hitting stuff.
Why were these people the first invited into the presence of God?
MARY AND JOSEPH
God called a poor couple from an average town, to share in the riches and deepest joys of his eternally worthy Kingdom.
The first people invited to the birth of Jesus was his parents. Go figure.
In the lead up to the first Christmas, the parents of Jesus would have been extremely excited and anxious. No other mother has a claim to fame quite like bearing the Son of God. And the build-up to this birth is still totally unrivalled.
Because this wasn’t your classic 9 month pregnancy. The arrival of some angels went a long way to confirming this wasn’t your average baby. Mary and Joseph would have been very aware of prophecies made about this baby centuries in advance.
The world had been expecting this champion for hundreds of years.
So this was a huge calling. I can’t overstate the level of crazy this job description requires. But what is even crazier is that there was nothing particularly special about Mary and Joseph. They were just a poor couple from a dodgy town.
And yet, God promised Mary and Joseph that by accepting Jesus in humility and with joy, they would be used in an extremely powerful way for the Kingdom of God.
And they stepped out in faith.
God called shepherds on the fringes of society, to the Good Shepherd who calls all people back to the centrepiece of civilisation
Back in the day, shepherds were pretty low on the social ladder.
In fact they probably didn’t even feature on the ladder. These guys often lived on their own, literally removed from society, as safety of the flock was at risk through the night.
So it is no surprise this is where history first records them. Tending to sheep and staying in the fields (Luke 2:8). A pretty boring arvo, until a host of angels show up announcing the birth of the Saviour of the world. Went from 0 to 100 real quick.
And the shepherds were initially terrified. I mean, put yourself in their shoes. I’d be shaking like a leaf. But after processing the news, the shepherds dropped their work and hurried into town to see this King.
Here’s the cool part. The wise men brought gifts to Jesus (Matthew 2:11). The shepherds didn’t bring anything. They just came as they were. Wearing stinky and torn clothes, unshaven and unqualified, no social standing whatsoever.
And yet, God promised the shepherds that by accepting the call with nothing to offer, everything would be offered to them in return. That from the fringes of society, they would be brought back to the centrepiece of civilisation.
And they stepped out in response to his call.
THE WISE MEN
God called wise men from a corrupt earthly king, to an eternal King who rules with justice and fairness.
History records these wise men as being royal astrologers.
There guys were an image of the smartest minds of the day. And not just your average astrologers, the royal astrologers. A good reference on your resume to say the least.
These men are best known for their pursuit of a star. Namely, Jesus. And it’s pretty crazy stuff. These men followed a star, a ball of gas millions of kilometres away in the universe, which according to their intellect was stooping over Jesus (Matthew 2:2).
All of creation bowing down to this Jesus. Not your average baby. Heck, not many can claim to using the universe as a sort of traffic light. Directing everyone to himself.
Equally important to note is that the wise men were from eastern lands (Matt 2:1). This is significant stuff. Because to this point in history, God’s people were almost exclusively citizens of Israel. And yet these wise men weren’t even from Israel.
They probably didn’t even know the language. But you see, God reached out to these men in a language they understood. He used their knowledge on the universe, the very line of their work, and brought them to Jesus.
He met them where they were. God promised the wise men that by seeking Jesus, they would see King Jesus.
And they stepped out in pursuit of that promise.
WRAPPING IT UP
Each of these VIP guests to Jesus proved one thing.
It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, smart or uneducated. Lonely or busy. Qualified or inadequate. From the king’s palace, a dodgy town, or not from any town at all.
God requires our response, not our resume.
The presence of Christ is revealed to those who step out in response to his call. This is the distinguishing feature of those called into the presence of Christ. Obedience rooted in faith. A response to the news of Christ, and the promise of serious hope and joy in him.
Who could pass that up?
We are all called into the very presence of God.
Practical application time.
To those who have accepted God’s call. Take a look at Mary and Joseph. Who despite being filled with absolute awe, still welcomed in the outcasts and the seekers. This season, look for ways to show the presence of Christ to those who need it.
To those too busy or smart for God. Take a look at the wise men. The royal astrologers, who despite having the mysteries of the universe to discover, still found time to seek the true King. This season, seek what Jesus really has to offer.
To those feeling removed from God and others. Take a look at the shepherds. The social outcasts, the lonely and weathered citizens of society, who were personally welcomed into God’s presence. This season, know that you are loved and welcomed by Jesus.
This is the awesome truth of Christmas. This is the awesome truth of Christianity. We are all called by the living God. Only one question remains:
How will you respond to Jesus?