[All Scripture quotes are from the English Standard Version of the Christian Bible.]
By the time this blog post is sent out all the beautifully wrapped Christmas gifts, which took hours to wrap, after looking for just the right Christmassy gift wrapping paper and the perfect color ribbons and the “correct” size bows to accentuate the gift wrapping [not to mention the time spent looking for the constantly disappearing tape and the ever elusive pair of scissors], have been torn to smithereens [the gift wrapping, that is] in a matter of minutes. The shredded mound of wrapping paper have been shoved into a snow-white garbage bad with a red-ribbon pull-string and dumped outside for “Trash Day” pick-up [SIGH!].
Hopefully, everyone had a fun time opening their gifts and watching family and friends open their’s. Hopefully, everyone is happy with the gifts they have received on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day or Epiphany Sunday. I certainly am happy with all my gifts and I am thankful for family and friends who took the time to gift me with the things I needed or wanted. No matter how lovely and magnificent a gift can be, the excitement of getting that gift wears away as time goes on. However, if you have received “the Indescribable Gift” [See II Corinthians 9:15), Jesus Himself, He is the Gift that keeps on giving. Even when our excitement wears away, Jesus will “never leave [us] nor forsake us” [See Hebrews 13:5]. Jesus is our Forever “Friend who sticks closer than a brother” [See Proverbs 18:24].
During Advent and the Twelve Days of Christmas [ending on Epiphany Sunday] Christians celebrate the Annunciation: the announcement made by the angel Gabriel to a virgin named Mary telling her that she will bear God’s own Son. Christians also celebrate the Incarnation: the God of all creation born as a human Baby – Jesus is “God with skin on.” Jesus is our “Immanuel” or “God with us” [See Matthew 1:20-23]. *The God Who is not restricted by time and space, Who is all-knowing and all-powerful, Whose appearance to people [called Theophanous] in the Old Testament would make them scared out of their minds [See Exodus 33:20 and Habakkuk 3:3-4, 16], became a vulnerable little human Baby! This mind-blowing thought came home to me in a brand new way, sending shivers up and down my spine, when I received a family Christmas photo from a cousin of mine. After looking at her beautiful family on the front of the card, the card instructed me to turn the photo “over”. On the other side was a photo of an ultrasound of a family member’s unborn baby. It was a “WOW!” moment. Just think – that ultrasound was exactly what Jesus looked like wrapped in Mary’s womb. The very first Christmas Gift was also “wrapped in swaddling cloths” and the best Christmas Gift ever!
[*“Why Jesus Came – 28 Meditations for Advent (#3 To be Immanuel – God with us”); by Carol Parrington (not yet published)]
“In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country…and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in [Elizabeth’s] womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the Fruit of your womb!’” [Luke 1:39-42].
“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us)” (Matthew 1:22-23; Also see Isaiah 7:14].
“And while they were [in Bethlehem], the time came for [Mary] to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn Son and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” [Luke 2:6-7].
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” [John 1:1-5, 14].
On the Twelfth Day of Christmas [the Sunday nearest to January 6th], Christians celebrate Epiphany Sunday, commemorating the time the wise men [or Magi] visited Jesus, when He was about two years old. They gave Jesus gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh [See Matthew 2:1-12]. My friend Carol Purington writes this in her Advent Meditations: “Did these wise men understand the symbolism of their gifts? Gold for royalty, incense for deity, myrrh for mortality. Humans are born to die; we are sinners and therefore mortal – subject to the death penalty. But not this Baby, the Creator and Prince of Life, the Holy and Eternal God of the universe. Mortality had no power over Him. He experienced death only because He chose to die.” Did the wise men who followed the star that pointed them to the Baby Jesus and, in turn, pointed us to Jesus our Immanuel who suffered and died on the cross for us on Good Friday and rose from the dead on Resurrection Sunday? I believe God used them to do just that, whether they knew or not. Christmas is much more than a story about a Baby born in a cattle stall. That’s only the beginning of “the wonderful old story”. There is also the empty tomb. The wrappings of death could not keep Jesus in the grave!
There’s more! Until next time, hoping for all of us to have a Blessed NEW YEAR!