When does Christmas start for you - that ‘moment’ when you get that warm, fuzzy festive feeling that say’s “It’s now Christmas” For me, it happened last Thursday. I was in Tesco Café, opposite the Foundry Church, doing some work and a local group of school children came in and started carol singing. It pulled on my heart strings, I’ll admit I got a little emotional, and for me, it felt like the start of Christmas.
Whenever or wherever we might feel Christmas starts for us, the Bible tells us when Christmas did start - 2000 years ago in a less than perfect location, a stable to be precise, in the town of Bethlehem:
‘While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them’ (Luke 2:6-7)
Jesus, the Saviour of the world, was born in a stable. That’s right. Not a palace as you might expect, or a decent hotel room at the very least! But this less-than-perfect location that God chose to birth the Savior of the world is really great news for us. It’s great news because a stable shows us poverty, meekness and mess! And Jesus came into the world into that environment, not luxury, comfort or riches. Jesus is a Saviour for not just the rich, well and comfortable; He’s a Saviour for the poor, meek and those who discover that life can get messy!
Christmas also started with some really great news:
‘And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord’ (Luke 2:8-11)
It’s easy to forget that Christmas is really good news. The soaps on TV seem to want to tell us that it’s really bad news we need to focus on (Eastenders and Corrie rarely end a Christmas day episode on a high!) but the truth is that the Angel spoke to the Shepherds and told them that Jesus’ birth was good news – really good news for all!
Think about the Shepherds; they weren’t necessarily what we might call winners in life. In first century Palestine, you were a shepherd if you couldn’t do anything else. It was hard work, often isolated from society and...smelly! There were no shower blocks on those fields, no HR department looking out for the welfare of the shepherds. But God chose these men, these lowly hill-sleeping sheep herders to be the first recipients of the greatest news ever – that Jesus, the Saviour had been born.
Perhaps life hasn’t turned out how you thought it might. Perhaps your health isn’t great, your job isn’t what you told the careers advisor at school you dreamed of doing, or life has thrown you some curveballs this year. Well, Jesus comes for you - the people who need Him and whose lives aren’t always Instagram-worthy.
And finally, Christmas started with lives being changed forever. Again, our shepherd friends had an encounter with God that changed everything:
‘The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told’ (Luke 2:20)
They ‘returned’; In other words, they went back to what they were doing before. But this time, different - ‘glorifying and praising God’. I think the Shepherds were buzzing! They’d met Jesus and it changed them! In the face of baby Jesus, they saw enough to know that life would never be the same again.
Reach out to Jesus this Christmas. The baby grew up into a man that lived the perfect life and died for the sins of the world, to bring eternal life to all who will believe.
Invite Him in. As you do that, God will come, and Christmas will really start for you – and never end!