What’s the meaning of Christmas for you? I realize that everyone can answer that in their own way. Gifts, decorations, music and family celebrations are all part of the meaning of Christmas. But behind those yearly events there is a greater answer, a profound answer. All of these things point to the time 2,000 years ago when a baby was born in Bethlehem. He was not just any baby. On that dark Palestinian hillside an angel told a bunch of startled shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: You will find the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”I agree with author J.I. Packer who notes that the Christian message of the incarnation is central to the Christmas story. He writes, “The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught like any other baby. Nothing in fiction is as fantastic as is this truth of the incarnation.”You can’t make up this kind of story. This is not of human origin. Harry Reasoner, the former CBS newsman, captured the wonder of this day, saying, “If Christmas is the anniversary of the Lord of the Universe in the form of a helpless baby, it’s quite a day.”One of my favorite tellings of the Christmas story is by J. B. Phillips. It’s called the “Visited Planet.” It’s about a junior angel who is being given a tour of the universe by a senior angel. After touring all the galaxies of the universe, they come at last to our solar system. The junior angel is tired and bored and not very impressed by what he sees. The senior angel points to the Earth and says, “Keep an eye on that planet.” The younger angel thinks the Earth looks small and dirty and insignificant. “That is the Visited Planet,” says the senior angel. “You don’t mean…..”“Yes, that planet has been visited by our young Prince of Glory.”“Do you mean to tell me that He stooped so low as to become one of those creeping, crawling creatures of that floating ball?”“I do, and I don’t think He would like you to call them ‘creeping, crawling creatures’ in that tone of voice. For, strange as it may seem to us, He loves them. He went down to visit them to lift them up to become like Him.”The junior angel has no reply. The very thought is beyond his comprehension. (From the Book New Testament Christianity by J.B. Phillips)Many miracles surround Christmas — the angels, the star, the dreams, the prophecies, but most of all the birth itself. These miracles are signs pointing to the greatest miracle of all: that we who live in this world have been visited by Someone from the “other world.” Someone from the world of light came to the world of darkness. Someone from the eternal came to the temporary. Someone from heaven came to live with us on Earth.The Bible explains this in several ways…• “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever would believe in Him would have eternal life,” John 3:16.• “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law,” Galatians 4:4.• “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” John 1:14.That is the meaning of Christmas. God broke into our world in the form of a baby, Jesus Christ. He still breaks through today. Sometimes the world around us may seem empty and we may feel entirely alone, but now and then, suddenly, when we least expect it, when we’ve almost given up hope, when we’re tired or bored or fearful or disgruntled, God breaks through and the angels start to sing. They sang for some startled shepherds one night in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. They still sing today for those who care to hear them.Can you hear the angels singing? They bring good news from the other side, good news of great joy, the best news the world has ever heard: Joy to the World, The Lord is Come, Let Earth receive her King!If you listen with all your heart, you can still hear them singing: “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth among those with whom he is pleased!”• The Rev. Robert Chambers is the pastor at First Baptist Church Carson City.
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