Today, on Christmas Eve, many will gather together with family and friends to exchange gifts and eat delicious food. Some, however, will be stuck at work or out of town and far away from the ones they love. Songs have been written about being at home for the holidays and being where friends and loved ones are close at hand. But when we stop to think about the first Christmas, we are reminded that Mary and Joseph were far away from the place they had called home. In fact, they arrived in Bethlehem without much of a plan and without a place to stay. In obedience to Caesar’s decree, they went to the city of Joseph’s ancestry to be counted and to pay their taxes. Paying tax, somehow, did not show up on any of the Christmas wish lists that I saw this year.
Although so much has changed in the world since the first Christmas, at least one detail remains the same. Hardly anyone noticed that Jesus had come into the world until a divinely appointed messenger announced his coming. Angels sang to shepherds, ““Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14 NIV) And a heavenly announcement was made, “for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11 ASV) Today, let it be known that Jesus came to earth that first Christmas. All believers can be God’s appointed messengers and announce that blessed good news that Christ was born in Bethlehem so many years ago. Jesus came with a purpose and a plan, “to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10b ASV) God in heaven wants to allow His favor to rest upon real people and He wants to spread peace.
Sometimes it is said before the coming of a great catastrophe or cataclysmic event, “Make your peace with God.” A recent example can be found in the movie 2012. There is good news for all of us because God has already paved the way for peace between all people and Himself. Baby Jesus came to live a perfect life and when He became an adult, He died a death on a tree that He did not deserve. By dying, He paid the penalty for those who had offended God, (that’s where all people fit into the equation). Jesus’ death means that a death sentence was served and that all of us sinners can have a real peace with God.
Unfortunately, many refuse to admit or recognize that they have offended God in some way or that the punishment for that offense is death. One of our biggest hurdles as people is to get to the place where we can accept and admit that we have, indeed, offended God. Once we acknowledge that we have wronged God, then we can accept the free gift of forgiveness that Jesus offers. We only need to ask and believe in Jesus; because the Savior born in Bethlehem occupies the unique position to be able to offer a real forgiveness and a genuine peace with God.
Once we have peace with God, we can be “at home” with our Creator. In fact, Jesus promised to make us a home in John 14:1-3. It really is true that there is no place like home for the holidays. And the first gift of Christmas, a child, was the best Christmas gift.
How about you? Have you unwrapped God’s gift to you? Come on, open up your Christmas present!