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We are pilgrims, journeying through life. The story of Bethlehem is the most beautiful and the greatest story ever told, the story of God’s visitation. Imagine the shepherds who tried to raise perfect lambs looking at the Lamb of God. Imagine the kings who studied the stars coming to the One who made them and was the King of kings. Imagine Simeon, who had waited all his life for the Messiah, holding in his arms He who would soon be carrying Simeon in His own. Imagine Mary, fearing the sword that would pierce through her heart, finding out that the child in her arms was the redeemer of every heart that came to Him, the great I AM. Imagine Joseph the carpenter, who “saved” him from Herod’s slaughter, finding the very designer of the universe saving him from his sin.—Ravi Zacharias
The Christian story on the feast of Epiphany is that this birth changes every ordinary aspect of life and death. We are a world with whom God is profoundly communicating. Like those who first journeyed to set their eyes on the child, we are invited to participate in a story that takes us beyond ourselves, even as it requires us to die to ourselves. But in so doing, Christ himself transforms our lives and our deaths, breathing something new where death stings and tears flow.
Jesus appeared on the scene of a people who had lived with God’s silence for 400 years. Into this wordless void, God not only spoke, but revealed the Word of God in the vicarious human standing beside us, crying with us, leading us home. Epiphany, like the birth of God itself, reminds us that into our ordinary days Epiphany comes, so that even death cannot stop a life shared with a God who becomes one of us. Because of this Christ, there was a first Epiphany and there will be more to come.—Jill Carattini
Christmas is the ultimate reminder of this: the God who set everything in motion, from the dance of the electron, to the orbit of planets—the God who sustains everything took on flesh and stepped into the world that he had made, that we might not just know about him but know him. We sometimes talk about the Incarnation as God’s greatest Christmas present; I prefer to think of it as God’s greatest act of making himself present.—Andy Bannister
Event after event has left the world questioning, “Why all the pain and strife? Why the slaughter of the innocents? Why troubles and sorrows?” It is getting darker and colder all the time. The sun is setting, the darkness is falling, and the world is looking for some ray of hope. That hope is here.
Two thousand years ago, over the town of Bethlehem, a new star shone and an angel of God proclaimed to a group of shepherds, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”1 On that special night, God gave us the greatest gift anyone could give—His Son, Jesus. Though Jesus came into the world as a tiny baby, He brought with Him all of God’s wonderful gifts. As He grew older, He unwrapped these gifts for us, one by one, as He taught us how to love God and each other. Then, when Jesus died for us, He gave us the greatest gift of all—the promise of eternal life in heaven when our time on earth is done.
Jesus wants to bring His peace to the hearts of all men everywhere. He sees the misery, grief, and pain of the heavy-hearted. He sees the weak and the weary. He sees those who struggle with fear—fear of the past and fear of the future. He sees the persecuted and war-torn, those who have been robbed of hope and a chance to live in peace. He hears our cries and reaches out to us in love. He offers hope and victory over our inner conflicts, fears, and sense of hopelessness. “Let not your heart be troubled,” He tells us. “You believe in God, believe also in Me.”2 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.”3 “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”4—Keith Phillips
For me, Christmas has come to be synonymous with intimacy. And I came to learn this in my late twenties on the first Christmas I celebrated as a believer. I had celebrated Christmas in a secular/popular way when I was a Muslim (and it was always fun), but that first Christmas having given my life to Christ was different.
There was no fanfare, no throng of family or children at first. It was only me and God. In those initial moments of morning devotion, I had a feeling that—as globally celebrated and overly commercialized as Christmas had become—Christmas for a believer is about intimacy. The God of the universe chose to incarnate Himself in a little baby, nurtured by a mother and father. What a union of contrasts! As the hymn expresses, He is the Christ “Who took on flesh, fullness of God in helpless babe.”
Can there be anything more intimate than that setting? Can there be anything more personal than God giving Himself as a gift not just for humanity but for each one of us? This season’s sometimes crass commercialism drowns out quiet intimacy. But for me, I never want to forget that Christmas commemorates the birth of the One who—for my sake—went to Good Friday’s cross and came out of Easter’s tomb.—Abdu Murray
When I think of Christmas, I think of time stopping for a moment as the earth turns to see a baby, the unexpected, yet long expected, the helpless baby who is the hope of every human heart; God come close. Maybe this sounds just like words to you, but to me, when I consider what the Bible says truly happened on that first Christmas morning, my heart leaps with joy knowing that God coming to earth means that light shone into my darkness. Thank you, Jesus, for coming to us.—Lara Buchanan
For the great and powerful of this world, there are only two places in which their courage fails them, of which they are afraid deep down in their souls, from which they shy away. These are the manger and the cross of Jesus Christ. No powerful person dares to approach the manger, and this even includes King Herod. For this is where thrones shake, the mighty fall, the prominent perish, because God is with the lowly. Here the rich come to nothing, because God is with the poor and hungry, but the rich and satisfied he sends away empty. Before Mary, the maid, before the manger of Christ, before God in lowliness, the powerful come to naught; they have no right, no hope; they are judged.—Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Although perhaps at this time of year, as we celebrate Christmas, it might seem more appropriate to be thinking about the person of Christ—the doctrine of the incarnation, the deity and humanity of Christ—nevertheless, the work of Christ is intimately bound up with Christmas as well, because you’ll remember the name given to the boy that would be born of Mary was “Jesus”—“Yahweh is salvation”—because he will save his people from their sins. So already in the annunciation of the birth of Christ you have reference to his work as the savior of the world saving us from our sins.—William Lane Craig
The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.—C. S. Lewis
It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.—Charles Dickens
Published on Anchor December 2016. Read by Gabriel Garcia Valdivieso. Music taken from the Rhythm of Christmas album. Used by permission.