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Every year it seems the Christmas holiday is eclipsed by more pressing concerns. There is always something else vying for our attention every December.
Right now, many are focused on what’s happening in Washington, D.C. – the fallout from the midterm elections, a possible government shutdown, and speculation about the 2024 presidential race. On top of this, there are worries about inflation and economic uncertainty as we continue to feel the after-effects of the pandemic. And if that weren’t enough, Vladimir Putin is threatening a nuclear holocaust.
With all of these legitimate concerns, why take time to focus on the birth of one baby in an out-of-the-way little village called Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago? How can we focus on Christmas when what we’re experiencing in our world seems so urgent and so unprecedented?
If you think about it, what was happening in the ancient world at the dawn of the first century was really not so different from what we’re experiencing in the 21st century.
The world’s population was focused on Rome, the center of world power. Everyone was following the intrigues and power struggles of the Roman emperor Octavian and the Senate. Octavian, known as Caesar Augustus, was in the process of consolidating his power and formulating a plan to tax everyone in the entire empire – a plan that would send a young couple Octavian had never met to a village he had never heard of to give birth to the Savior of the world.
Just after that Savior was born in an animal feeding trough, an angel spoke to shepherds in a nearby field to tell them about the newborn Christ. The angel announced, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). All the people?
Perhaps the shepherds, so caught up in the wonder and surprise of the moment, didn’t have time to fully ponder this phrase. They probably thought the Messiah’s arrival would be good news for Israel. But what difference would his coming make for the rest of us? How could Christmas really be good news for everyone?
With two millennia of hindsight, any objective person would have to say the angel was right. Christ’s birth has indeed been good news. Christ has brought joy to every corner of the world through the works of His people. Just think of the greatest literature, art and architecture – the Sistine Chapel, Notre Dame Cathedral, or Handel’s Messiah. Think about the greatest inventions and inventors – people like Johannes Gutenberg, Isaac Newton or Louis Pasteur. Think about the great educational institutions such as Yale and Harvard. Think about the organizations that serve millions of oppressed and impoverished peoples – the Red Cross or the Salvation Army.
All of these great works and organizations were created by followers of Jesus Christ who created their works in the name of this one little baby boy born in Bethlehem. The world is forever changed and immeasurably better because of Him. Christmas really has shown itself to be good news for all people.
But Jesus didn’t come to Earth just to inspire great art and respected institutions. Jesus came to Earth on a rescue mission.
He was a baby born to die – not for His own sins, but for our sins. He offers us the gift we all need the most: God’s forgiveness. Someone has said, “If our greatest need had been for money, God would have sent an economist. If our greatest need had been for an education, God would have sent a teacher. But our greatest need was for forgiveness, which is why God sent us Savior.”
As the angel told the shepherds, “For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2: 11).
The angel emphasized to the shepherds that God’s gift transcends race, religion and gender. Christ’s coming was for ALL people: Jews, Baptists, Catholics, Muslims, Anglicans and atheists. But like any gift, God’s gift of forgiveness must be received before it can benefit us.
Jesus Himself explained the true meaning of Christmas – and its universal appeal — in the most well-known verse in the Bible: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)
As you look at this chaotic world that seems to be spinning out of control, take a moment to consider the great gift the Creator of this world offers you. Regardless of what you have done, if you will simply acknowledge your need for God’s forgiveness and trust in Christ’s death for you, you can begin a relationship with God today that will transcend your death and extend throughout eternity.
Now that is truly good news for ALL people!