Of all the great souls who have ever lived, it is no secret that One stands out far above the rest. More stories have been told, more songs sung, more scenes painted about Him than about any other who has dwelt on our planet. He’s become a big part of our holidays, our kindness, our gift giving. Still, it seems noteworthy, that out of all the fantastic events of His life, the world, as a whole, has apparently chosen to focus on His birth.
Christmas—the wonderment! A helpless baby in a lowly manger. So many get caught up in the “story”—a young couple with no lodging, a new star, poor shepherds on a hillside hearing an angelic choir. Over time, mankind has brought it all together on that one night, wrapped up in a lovely bow. Some have even built upon the written account. Wise men from the east are now called “kings.” They’ve determined their number to be three and even given them names. The story grows. Someone has fantasized about a boy and his drum, or another about animals that talked. The tale is magical and seems to be well received in all nations. For, what can such a sweet story disrupt? Why, even to many Jews, Christmas traditions have become acceptable in the workplace. Some of our Israeli friends join in the festivities—buying presents for their co-workers, decorating the company tree, singing along with “Jingle Bells.”
Christmas is to most men, harmless. After all, who can be threatened by a baby? And yet, King Herod was. No, he wasn’t afraid of a newborn sitting on his throne. Babies can’t do the work of kings. The child was not the threat to him. Herod feared what the child might become, and how this boy could eventually undo his kingdom.
Had Herod succeeded in destroying the baby Jesus, then there would have been no “Christmas”—no candy cane like the shepherds crook; no star at the top of the tree—for, what would be the point? Not even Santa, or Rudolf, or Frosty would have emerged. No Grinch and all the Whos down in Who-ville. No Ebenezer Scrooge.
Had Jesus been killed by Herod’s order…well, then someone would have had to go and find the little boy John in the desert with his mother, and tell them there would be no Messiah to prepare the way for. Oh, and perhaps someone might want to inform the “men from the east” that the little child they had brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to shall never benefit from their kindness because He had died with all the other little boys in Bethlehem. Had Herod succeeded… But Herod did not succeed. Would God send ten thousand angels to announce the coming of One who was to live but a few days, or weeks, or months? Again, what would be the point?
His could have just as well been an ordinary birth—no sign in the heavens, no celestial voices, no “night of all nights.” A great deal many other souls (including you and me) have known such ordinary beginnings. But His coming was not ordinary, because of what it pointed to. Not to the Baby Jesus, but to the Man Jesus—to the living and the dying and the rising again. Most of the world shies away from the Man because He represents effort on our part—going out of our comfort zones, keeping the commandments, repenting of our sins, changing our lives to conform to His words—and most people don’t like change. They might say, “The baby can’t preach to us. Let’s just stick to the baby story.”
And so to most all of the world, the baby story is Christmas. But Jesus wants the world to know the rest of the story.
President Gordon B. Hinckley declared: “The story of Christmas is so much larger than the story of [Jesus’] birth in Bethlehem. It is the very core of the entire plan drawn and adopted for the salvation of the sons and daughters of God of all generations. His birth cannot be separated from His earthly ministry. Neither can it be detached from His divine sacrifice, the atonement made in behalf of each of us. At Christmas, we sing of His birth. I feel so profoundly grateful for that birth. But that birth would not be remembered but for the gift He made to all of us through His mortal ministry, followed by the terrible pain and suffering of His death, to rise glorious and triumphant as the Redeemer of the world.”
Friends and fellow children of God, Jesus wants to raise us up to the world of glory—to the kingdom of Heaven where no unclean thing can enter. And we are all unclean without Him. That is why the angels came. That is why the star appeared. That is the whole reason for His birth—the glorious good tidings to all—to be a Savior of the people; to be “Christ the Lord.” No baby could do this. No infant could suffer for our sins. It would take a Man of holiness. It would take a God. And this is precisely what all Heaven knew He would grow in to.
So, may we remember that while Christmas has become so many things to so many people, the Boy Jesus became the Man Jesus, and that Man can change our lives forever.
See you in seven… :)