Editor’s note: The following commentary by Paul Baxter was written in early December.
Can Christians believe the Christmas story is more than just a fairy tale? That is a jolly good question! Thank you for asking it! I love to say that Christmas is a “A Stranger-than-Fiction-but-Truer-than-True Story!” You are absolutely right about the strangeness of Christmas for it is far beyond anything ever been imagined by anyone at anytime in anyplace!
Who would have dreamed up the idea that almighty God, Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, would humble Himself to become a baby born to a virgin in a stable and then laid in a manger – an animal’s feeding trough. And how that would be just the beginning of His willingness to become a full-fledged human being, first as a helpless, crying baby having to be nursed and cared for, have His diapers changed.
Rick Warren says it was “a big deal when man walked on the moon. But it was a bigger deal when God walked on the earth.” It was stranger than strange that God was willing to crawl as a baby before walking as a child, an adolescent, and finally as a man. God humbled Himself to experience every aspect of human life, from being born in a stable to His death on the cross, to experience first-hand what it is like to be hungry and thirsty, tested and temped, understood and misunderstood, loved and hated, betrayed and deserted by His friends, and criticized and condemned, beaten and brutalized, whipped and stripped, and finally crucified by His enemies.
What a stranger-than-fiction story! No doubt about it! This mystery of mysteries challenges us to humble ourselves and be open to how a humble God reveals the essence of a love-lived life. This past week I read how Albert Einstein once said: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.”
Although the most beautiful and mysterious Christmas Story is stranger than fiction it is a truer-than-true story. The most familiar Christmas story in the Bible was written by Luke, who believed it to be the Gospel Truth.
He began his Gospel telling his readers how he got his information about Jesus from “the original eyewitnesses” who lived with Jesus for three years and heard and saw what Jesus said and did. Luke tells us how he “carefully investigated everything from the very first.” We know his Gospel of Luke was written while eyewitnesses were still alive!
One of those eyewitnesses wrote The Gospel of John, where we read in John 1: 14: “The Word [of God] became flesh and took up residence among us. We (the disciples of Jesus) observed His glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John spent three years with Jesus, hearing and seeing the glorious words and deeds of “the One and Only Son of God.” He was the one disciple at the cross when Jesus died, standing right next to Mary. He knew from her how Jesus was born and saw for himself how Jesus died. He and Peter were the first disciples to see the empty tomb.
Later, he saw the Resurrected Christ. He knew how Jesus was not just the greatest teacher, preacher, and healer but was Who He claimed to be – the Son of God.
We can know that what Luke and John knew to be true … is true! We not only have the Gospel Truth recorded by Luke and John, but also by Matthew and Mark – all revealing the divine goodness embodied in Jesus!
When we read and study the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and His in-dwelling transformation of His followers, we can, like John, “observe His glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The Christmas Story introduces what we call “Amazing Grace” that embodies the highest, deepest, and widest love ever known on earth and still unknown by religions and cultures that do not know Christ. Christmas is about love utterly unconditional, supremely self-sacrificial, and marvelously merciful – forgiving even the worst sinners! Question: Can you conceive of a higher, deeper, and wider love? Or one that can meet our fundamental human needs as well as this love?
Because of God’s love for us God came in the Person of Jesus Christ to live among us, suffer with us, die for us and finally, live in us – take up residence in our heart, soul, mind, and body to save and change our lives so we can begin to love as He loves. Is there any other possible way to transform human lives, freeing us from our own innate selfishness out of which arise the anger, bitterness, cruelty, desires, envy, fear, greed, and hatred manifested on our riotous streets and in our too-often self-absorbed homes?
Does not this ring true in the depths of your own heart, soul, mind, and body? Joy to the World. The Lord is Come!