Sinclair Ferguson in the book Child in the Manger gives us this parable:
“On the north side of the square (in Glasgow, Scotland) stood a massive manger scene – a life-size representation of the stable, Mary and Joseph, the manger complete with baby, and various shepherds and wise men. One year as I made my way to church I noticed two police officers standing beside it as if on guard.
Since this is Christmas Eve, it was surely one on which a friendly word, a greeting, even a passing question might result in a brief conversation. And so I made a statement, inflicting it so that it sounded like a question…So I said, with a smile: ‘Guarding the manger?’
I hoped it might open up a conversation- after all, the whole point of the original manger was that in it lay the baby who had come to guard us. Did we not read each year in our Christmas service: ‘To us, a child is born, to us a son is given and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace?’ There was something paradoxical about police officers guarding him!
The officers’ answer took me by surprise: ‘Well, yes. We are guarding the manger. You see last year the baby Jesus was stolen!’”
So the previous year one might have stood in George Square with the Lord Provost’s message on the south side with it hope that we might all know ‘the true meaning of Christmas’, while on the north side the ‘baby’ who represented the true meaning of Christmas had been stolen!”
It strikes me that this story is a perfect parable of our Christmas today. We continue to wish for the blessings of Christmas, but we have lost the benefactor. The central figure is no longer central to our lives in December. For most the baby has been stolen. How in the world can we rediscover the true meaning of Christmas?
The significance of the birth of Christ can only be fully understood in the context of the bigger picture. In the book of Matthew, he sets it up by giving a historical genealogy of Jesus. It is composed of three groups of fourteen generations. For most this is something that you speed read and forget, but it makes a rather important point. This genealogy is an amazing story of God’s faithfulness to His promise to bless all the nations of the earth!
Matthew is telling us that the direction, the goal, and the meaning of this history are all found in the baby who was born in Bethlehem. Phillips Brooks (1835-93) expresses this in a hymn:
O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by:
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.
Whether Christian or pagan, the birth of Jesus divided history into two major epochs. Even the way we dated events underscored this. The dividing line date is marked by the birth of Jesus. At the very center of history stands the person of Jesus. And He does because He is the center of God’s story. As Jesus is the center of historical life, He is the center of our lives. Whenever Christ enters a life everything is rearranged around Him as it’s new center.
I have done a fair amount of reading on happiness and where it is centered. What I have discovered is Jesus is the only one who can focus our happiness and fulfill us and His birth represented a fountain of new life for all of us.
Jesus coming is to help everything in our lives make sense. He is truly the light of the world. So this is the meaning of Christmas: the Light of the world has come into the darkness of the world, in order to bring light into the darkness of our hearts, and to illuminate our hearts with the grace of forgiveness. Why the birth? So all our hopes and dreams and fears for all the years are met in Christ. It is time for all to celebrate the birth not only of Jesus but our birth from above so that our lives can begin anew! Halleluiah, Halleluiah, Halleluiah!
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