As we read the events of Christmas as told in the Bible, we watch as God draws back the veil and gives us a glimpse into the heavenly sphere. He revealed "the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:26-27) He called those who were willing to take part in His plan, and they experienced things they had never known before.
The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary; an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, the shepherds saw a multitude of the heavenly host praising God; the wise men saw a star and were able to interpret its meaning. These are not your ordinary, everyday happenings. It was a glorious time of the supernatural being revealed to natural men and women as God announced His “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”
God is still revealing the supernatural to those who receive His Spirit. We can have a light that shines and reveals a spiritual level that the natural person cannot see. By His Spirit, we can understand God’s Word more clearly, hear His voice speaking in our spirits, see beyond the physical things that are happening around us, and have understanding that goes beyond human knowledge.
There is no age barrier, no gender barrier, no special skills required. We don’t have to be at a certain place. We simply have to be open to receive Him. We learn that from reading the accounts of Jesus’ birth.
All the characters in the Christmas story are familiar to us. Each one has their own story of how the birth of Jesus affected them personally. Through the words in the Scripture, we can see the response to their initial encounter with the God of all creation. We can watch their faith grow as they choose to follow God. Their experiences can give us a greater understanding of God’s eternal plan.
From Mary we can learn the value of submission, even when we are grossly misunderstood. She was looked upon as a fallen woman, and very likely the rumors flew from one to another. It would have been hard to accept her story as truth. After all, she was an ordinary young woman claiming an unbelievable story. Even after Jesus had grown up and began His ministry, the religious leaders made mention of His “illegitimate” birth. But it wasn’t true, and God’s favor and blessing were on Mary. That means much more than the favor of the world.
What are we willing to give up in order to become part of God’s eternal plan? Will we fully answer His call, or fall prey to the condemnation of those who don’t believe?
Joseph found that things are not always as they seem. The “truth” was pretty obvious to him about Mary, and it may have shocked him that she would make up such a fanciful, sacrilegious story. But, Joseph discovered the obvious was not always the truth. Just when he thought his world was falling apart, the door to the heavenly realm opened and showed him the honor God was bestowing on Mary and him by allowing them to be part of His miraculous plan.
When we think our world is crumbling beneath our feet, we need to take another look. Our God is in control. What He allows is for our ultimate good, no matter how devastating it may seem. If we seek Him, He will draw back the veil and show us the truth in His time. But we must learn to trust Him regardless of “the obvious”.
I believe we can learn several things from the shepherds. One is this: God knows exactly where we are and it doesn’t matter if we are low in the social order or on the top. The shepherds were not exactly white-collar workers, and they were on the job out in the field. God sent not only one angel, but a multitude of angels to them! We are all loved by Him, and He sees us where we are. He wants us all to know His plan of salvation. We may be rejected by those of high standing in this world, but we can be accepted by the King of kings and know Him personally.
The second thing the shepherds can teach us is that we are to share what we have received. They didn’t keep the news to themselves. They listened to the angels, believed the news, went to see Jesus for themselves, and immediately began to share the good news with others. Too often we are quiet when we should be talking about Jesus and letting others know of the salvation we have found.
The wise men set out on a long journey because God showed them a star and gave them the knowledge to understand what it meant. They followed the star seeking Jesus regardless of how much it cost them. Few seek Him like that anymore…with total abandon! We try to fit Him into our schedules a few times a week, but too often those times have become a form instead of a love relationship with Jesus. Are we willing to put forth the effort to seek Him at great personal cost because we long for more of Him, His Word and His Spirit? When we seek like that, we will find.
Even Herod can teach us something. He clung so tightly to what he had, that he couldn’t grasp the truth and enlightenment he could have possessed as his own. Instead, he tried to kill the Truth and Light. He missed the opportunity of a lifetime. What we have in our hands is there only because God has allowed us to have it for a while. If we hold tightly to material things, traditions and positions, we will lose the most important gift we could ever receive. We might have to release some things in our lives so we can cling tightly to Jesus, but He is definitely worth it.
When we realize these were real people who had lives like we do, it puts a different perspective on things. They had plans of their own. Mary and Joseph were planning a wedding. The shepherds were on the job. They were busy about their daily routines and had feelings, doubts and hopes, just like you and me. But the birth of a Baby changed everything about their plans and routines as they responded to the call of God. He will change us, too, if we listen to His voice and respond to Him in complete surrender.
God can do wonderful things through ordinary people who respond to His call with the words of Mary, “be it unto me according to thy word.” Let this be a Christmas of surrender.