Do you have a nativity set? In the familiar cast of characters, each has his or her own role to play. Each has a different relationship to the Christ-child, the central figure in history, the rock on which all lives are either built or broken (Luke 20:17-18).
The Christmas story isn’t a one-size-fits-all message. In fact, Christmas has a different message for different people in different seasons of their lives. As we consider each character, ask yourself, “Is that me?” Perhaps you’ll take time to read the full story of that first Christmas for yourself in Luke 2:1-38.
First, let’s consider Joseph. When his fiancée, Mary, became pregnant, Joseph must have felt an array of emotions: anger, confusion, and deep hurt. “Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit’” (Matthew 1:19-20). If Joseph had reacted quickly or in anger, his story would have turned out so differently. When Joseph faced the unthinkable, he patiently waited for God to reveal the next step.
Perhaps you can relate to Joseph’s feelings of confusion and abandonment. Maybe something happened to you that you can’t understand, and it doesn’t seem right or fair. Are you confused like Joseph? Don’t lash out. Be patient; God will sort it out.
Second, the wise men. These guys didn’t just come from across the street. They came from the East, perhaps from China. They came a long way and sacrificed a great deal in order to find the King (Matthew 2:1-2). The wise men illustrate seeking. Perhaps this Christmas you’re seeking God for the first time in your life. Or maybe you’ve wandered from God. Wise men and women still seek Him. If you’re seeking like the wise men following that star, look up; God will lead you to the truth.
Third, Mary. Joseph traveled to Bethlehem “with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child” (Luke 2:5). Betrothed with child? How scandalous! Though we know the real story, Mary must have faced harsh judgment. Plus she faced her first childbirth alone, without a midwife or her mom or sisters or friends. We know a few details about Mary’s response: When the angel announced God’s favor to Mary, he told her not to be afraid (Luke 1:30), and as the story unfolded, “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). What a godly woman. She didn’t react, overreact, pace, or pester Joseph. She quietly pondered.
Like Mary, do you wonder what’s ahead in your life? Do you feel fear and uncertainty about the future? Are you dreading a test result, a financial uncertainty, a strained relationship? If you feel afraid like Mary, be still; God will calm your heart.
Fourth, the innkeeper. He’s not technically in the Christmas story, but let’s give him a guest appearance. Mary “gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7, emphasis mine). Really, innkeeper?! No room for Mary and Joseph? What exactly were you doing? How could you not find this poor girl a bed?
The innkeeper just didn’t know. If he’d known what was unfolding in the stable, he would have found them a room. He would have slept in a tent and given them his own room. He was busy-busy-busy, working, not taking the time to really see what was happening around him. Jesus Christ was born in a stable very near to him, perhaps even in his own stable, and he missed it.
Can you relate? Can you think of Christmases when the message of Christ was so near, but you missed it? Have you allowed the intensity of the season—the schedule, the events, the presents—to consume you so you haven’t noticed Jesus? If you’re distracted like the innkeeper, pay attention—God is near.
Fifth, the shepherds. Think of all the people God could have sent the angelic choir to. He sent them to shepherds—and as if that weren’t a low enough job, these were the night-shift shepherds. God chose regular people, working folks on the job, and connected with them right in their routine. As soon as the angels vanished, the shepherds got their feet moving and went to see the Christ-child (Luke 2:8-20). If you’re stuck in a routine like the shepherds, just plodding along through regular life, then go to Him. God sees you.
Sixth, Anna and Simeon. These two had waited decades for a glimpse of the Messiah. When they saw the baby Jesus, they knew exactly who He was. If you’ve been waiting a long time like Anna and Simeon, don’t give up; God is faithful!
In the world, the longer you wait for a job, the less likely you’ll find one. The longer you wait to get well, the less likely you will. The longer you wait for financial provision, the less likely you’ll receive it. But in God’s economy, the longer you wait for God’s promises, the closer they are to fulfillment. Are you waiting on God, wondering, “When, God, when?” Take heart. In His timing, God will fulfill all of His promises, just as He did for Anna and Simeon.
This Christmas, more than two thousand years after Jesus’ quiet arrival, He is still and always Christ our Lord.
Consider Joseph, the wise men, Mary, the innkeeper, the shepherds, and Anna and Simeon—and how God cared for each of them. What is the message of Christmas for you this year?
Father God, thank You that because Your Word is alive, it’s always fresh and powerful, even though it’s familiar. Thank You for the Christmas story and what it reveals about You. You’re in control. You lead us to the truth. You calm our hearts. You’re near. You see us. You’re faithful. And You are the same today as You were on that first Christmas. Make clear to us what You would have us learn afresh in this familiar story. May our hearts be filled with worship for Your Son, Jesus Christ the Lord, born to set us free. In the name of our Savior we pray, amen.
For more from Dr. James MacDonald please visit Walk in the Word on OnePlace.com.