December 17, 2017
Christmas is about a new beginning
I love the certainty with which Matthew begins his gospel, the first of the four gospels. He does not say meekly, “Once upon a time,” as though he was about to tell a fairy tale. No, Matthew boldly presents Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.
So, as the first book in the New Testament, Matthew’s gospel is a bridge linking the promise of the Messiah to the birth of Jesus. The Old Testament had said, “Someone is coming!” And the New Testament allows Matthew to say, “That Someone is here and his name is Jesus!”
Quoting the Old Testament fifty times, Matthew leaves no room for doubt; Jesus is the Shepherd promised by the prophets. He is the Son of David. He is the Son of Abraham. He is the King. And he is the Son of God.
With absolute conviction, Matthew presents Jesus as more than a baby born to a woman named Mary; Jesus was the eternal God coming to earth. Thus the name Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” God had acted. Jesus was God in the flesh. His birth marked a new beginning not merely for the Jews, but for the entire world.
The birth of Jesus was God taking the initiative to create a new family, a new community with new values and fresh hope for the world. Jesus explained this by saying that the Kingdom of God was “at hand.”
No longer was God invisible and “out there” somewhere. God had come to earth as a helpless baby. Jesus was a real baby, born in a cow’s stall. Mary and Joseph were real too, ordinary people in a real world where poor people rode on donkeys and choked on the dust of dirt roads. A world in which people feared violent rulers like Herod the Great. It was this ruthless ruler of Palestine who, fearing Jesus was a new king who would displace him, ordered the slaughter of all male children up the two years of age.
To Matthew, God’s coming to earth was good news. Good news for the poor who would now have a kind Shepherd to care for them. Good news for the imprisoned whose King would set them free. Good news for the sick who now had a Messiah who would cure their diseases. Good news for the blind and the lame who would now see and walk. Good news for everyone who longed for forgiveness of their sins and peace with God.
It was a new day! God had come to give the human race a new beginning!
Matthew shows us a God who gets involved in the lives of ordinary people who trust him. He meets the needs of Mary and Joseph. He guides them. He protects them. He provides for them.
The gospel story of Jesus’ birth shows us that God wants to share our humanity as well. He invites us to trust him for guidance and protection. He invites us to allow him to get down in the trenches with us and give us the power to overcome our problems. He wants to be Emmanuel, God with us, in the daily struggles of our lives. He wants us to be able to say, “I was not alone. God was with me and his presence made all the difference!”
At Christmastime we need to do more than observe that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, we need to invite him to be “born” in us. In his beautiful Christmas carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” Phillips Brooks penned these inspiring words: “O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray, cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.” A poignant idea – Jesus born in us!
God did a new thing when Jesus was born. And when Jesus is “born” in our lives, God does a new thing. He gives us a new beginning! We have new values, new hopes, new dreams and new energy to live life to the fullest.
The birth of Jesus long ago gave the world a new beginning. The birth of Jesus in our hearts gives us a new beginning for the living of these days!
Little children look for joy when Santa comes down the chimney. Big children find joy when they pray, “O holy Child of Bethlehem, be born in me today!” Such a prayer can trigger a marvelous new beginning! + + +