Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from Bethlehem's Manger

Each Christmas I imagine what it was like to be in Bethlehem on that day when Jesus was born. I stand a short distance away and watch as the shepherds excitedly run to the stable and breathlessly look upon the scene before them. The undiscerning observer would have seen a humble, poor family unfortunate enough to arrive too late to get a room in Bethlehem. But to the shepherds who had received a crash course given by angels in Christology the scene was filled with glory and amazement. The shepherds, after a pause to gaze intently upon the face of the Christ child, joyfully explain what the angel had said to them not far away in a simple field outside of Bethlehem.

I wait patiently until the shepherds leave with their news of the new born Savior, then I humbly approach the stable. Timid to barge in unannounced, I wait until Joseph sees me. Then, with a knowing heart, he nods his approval, and I slowly step into the faint light of that little scene. Mary is tucking baby Jesus with a small wrapping, as she has done many times that night to make sure he is snug and warm. Then she lifts her eyes to me, and sweetly smiles. I shuffle closer to the manger, and look down into the face of the Son of God in human flesh. Suddenly every Christmas carol I ever heard bursts into song. Every Scripture verse on the incarnation I know explodes with fresh meaning and inspiration in my heart. I look at the lips of Jesus and think of how He spoke His Word into existence. I gaze upon His hands and think of the power that flung galaxies into space. I look into His eyes, and I see glory; the glory of God in the highest of heaven. And trembling with delight and awe I speak to Him. Out of my heart flows effervescent praise and joy. "Glory to God in the highest; Immanuel has come! All is well; God's redemptive plan is alive and assured. One day there will be a cross; one day there will be a resurrection, and one day the world will be filled with the knowledge of God. All because of this very night."

Soon I sense it is time to go. It is time to go back to pressure, stress, commitments and duties, dreams and challenges. It is time to go back to the job of living. But how can I ever see a sunrise or a sunset without thinking of the glory of God? How can I ever preach a sermon without thinking of the power of the Bethlehem's moment of glory? The world is still filled with problems, complications, bloodshed, sickness, and death. But hope is born in Bethlehem, and all is well. I can never be a pessimist again. Tomorrow will be a beautiful day!

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