We find ourselves once again in the season of Advent, preparing for the great holiday of Christmas. Stores and city streets alike are decorated, people’s houses are decked out with lights and the questionable and strangely popular inflatable Christmas décor, and everyone is rushing to shop, though with that fresh and hopeful Christmas look in their eyes. You see people drinking hot cocoa and wearing scarves, talking and laughing and enjoying the merriment of the season.
I mean, you just can’t help but love this time of year! But a recent article written by Bishop Robert Barron had me pondering the question: why is this a season of such good cheer and merry-making, when the first Christmas was really nothing like that?
Christmas, like many other holidays, has become significantly commercialized. And while this is such a beautiful and joyful time of year, I think many of us fail to recognize that Christmas, also like many other holidays, has a deep, rich, and meaningful history which is sometimes buried by all the materialism stacked on top of it.
Think about the first Christmas. You’ve got a young, very pregnant woman and her husband walking around in the middle of the night trying to find a place to stay. Everyone is turning them away, simply because there is no room. Finally, they find a place to stay! In a stable. Imagine how uncomfortable that would be. Now imagine the poor pregnant woman, who has gone into labor and has to deliver her first child in a stable. It is smelly, uncomfortable, messy, cold, surrounded by animals, and definitely not ideal. It is here that her Child is born.
What happens next isn’t exactly ideal either. After a visit from astrologers from a distant land (which is kind of cool, though no doubt confusing as well), the husband receives word that the king of that region wants that new baby boy killed, because the king feels threatened by Him. YIKES. Okay, so he takes his new little family and flees to Egypt and lives there until he is told in a dream that it is safe to return back to his homeland.
There’s the first Christmas for you. So why has this difficult, painful, and confusing night become quite possibly the most anticipated and joyful holiday, celebrated by people all over the world? Because the Child that was born on that first Christmas night, was God Himself.
Christmas shares with us the most incredibly joyful and beautiful message we could ever hope to have. The almighty, all-powerful, ever-living God humbled Himself to become man. He chose to come as a little Child, a helpless and dependent babe, born in a cold, smelly stable. And all for one reason: because He loves each and every one of us so much. We got ourselves into a mess, stuck in the filth of sin, and could not get ourselves out. So God, the One Whom we have offended by sin, came down into the mess to pull us out Himself.
The God of the universe loves you so much that He does not want to spend eternity without you. That’s what Christmas is all about. It is a season of good cheer, great joy, and immense love. Even though the first Christmas didn’t seem to contain those things, that is exactly what the birth of that little Child brought to the world.
There’s hope and joy in that, and that is why Christmas is so great.