I’ll confess, and I’m not proud of it, but I get a little bit annoyed at Christmas every year when people try to talk about “the true meaning of Christmas.” Most of the time its something about not spending as much money and being generous because God was generous to us… similarly the same application as Thanksgiving and Easter. I think that a lot of people try to allegorize the Christmas story…reading spiritual meaning into it that isn’t there. I wonder if sometimes we need to let the Bible speak for itself, rather than trying to jump to conclusions or applications that aren’t there.
Most of the Bible is a story.
Stories, especially ones included in the holy texts of different faiths, aren’t meant to be ripped apart and divided into nice, neat little morsels of application and practicality.
Stories are meant to engage people in a plot and characters. Stories are meant to tell of the happening of certain events. Of course, there’s a time at the end of the story to reflectively enter into the psyche of the characters and consider the spiritual meaning behind them, but only after we’ve understood the story for what it is.
The original Christmas story was a dark one.
It involved a 14 year old pregnant girl running for her life, after a promise given to her in a vision that she couldn’t prove, the results of which put her in danger of being exiled from her hometown and family, a much more leaninient punishment that the one the Jewish Scriptures called for.
It involved a power hungry monarch, cutting the heads off babies on a whim that his power might be threatened.
It involved a man who had strived to be righteous his whole life only to have his reputation shattered based upon something that wasn’t his fault.
The most hopeful part of the story? Not the fact that the Gospel writers claimed that this infant would become the Messiah, and not the fact that they record all of the ways in which this birth would be the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Maybe one of the most hopeful parts of the story is the Magi (or the wise men). Some guys from “the East”… who were star-gazers and saw this miraculous light in the sky. Astrologers. Pagans. New age crystal-ball hippies. Popular Christmas song says that there were three of them, and that they were kings, though the Bible records neither of these details.
Jewish King Herod, who should have been anticipating the arrival of the Messiah sees it as a threat to his power.
Pagan wise men, astrologers, star-gazers come to worship the infant and give him gifts.
…foreshadowing a theme of Jesus entire life and ministry: those who think they are near, are far off, and those who are far off, are brought near…
…that you who think you are close to God might actually be most in need of his grace…
…that you who think you are far from God might actually be closer than you think…
…o tidings of comfort and joy!