What is your favorite Christmas Story?

What is your favorite Christmas story?
Maybe it is one of those classic Christmas movies that most of us re-watch again and again this time of year: It’s a wonderful life, Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, Polar Express, Elf, or even Hallmark Christmas movies.
 
If for you it’s a Hallmark movie, you don’t need to tell us which one because there are really only about 5 total plots they recycle and mix for all their movies.

Just say what plot it is, like the one where the big city dweller travels to a small town to destroy it or some icon in it, only to fall in love with someone who lives there and the town itself and end up staying there. Of course, that is like 1/4 of them. Maybe your favorite Christmas story it is a personal story of a really special time for you or your family, a special gift or experience.

Do you want to know my favorite Christmas story?
It is recorded in the first chapter of the Gospel of John in the Bible (surprise, a preacher saying that). It is how John begins his story of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus, the savior.

It reads:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:1-5, 10-14

Maybe as I was reading this, you thought to yourself, “That isn’t the Christmas story!”
“Where are the shepherds? Where are the angels? There are no wise men here.”
“Where are Mary and Joseph?”“Where is 8 lb. 9 oz. baby Jesus, all wrapped up in swaddling cloth and laying in a manger?”

You can find all that in Luke chapter 2, and it is a great story, but while Luke tells us the whole, “Who, what, when, where…”, John—in his account—cuts straight to the why. And what he tells us is that in Jesus coming—who he calls the Word—the creator was stepping into his creation. This is kind of a crazy thing to think about. It would be like an author stepping into the story they had written. The Oxford scholar and author, C.S. Lewis, noted that William Shakespeare knew more about Hamlet than anyone—his thoughts, his motivations, his actions, his hopes, his dreams, his struggles—nobody knew more, for he created him. And yet, he could not actually know him. He could not meet him and have a relationship with him.

The only way he could, would be to actually enter into the story. That is what we find right here.

John tells us that at Christmas, the author of it all was coming into the world he had created to be with those he created.It says he came and made his dwelling among us. The pastor Eugene Peterson said he “moved into our neighborhood.” Became one of us. In this way we know that he knows. He experienced all that we experience—all the good and all the bad. Especially the bad—for he was mocked, ridiculed, falsely accused, arrested, tortured, beaten and even died before rising again.

Why? To bring us light and life.
John said, “In him was life and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
 
I find this idea particularly enticing, because there is a lot of darkness in our world. I’m reminded of it every time I read the news and here of crimes that seem unfathomable.

I’m reminded of it when my family gathers and I think of those who should be there but aren’t—like my uncle, Eric, who lost his battle with cancer at only 54. And I’m reminded of it every time I personally screw up. Something within me says, “This is not the way the world should be. This isn’t the way you should be.”

The grand story told in the Bible traces the origin of all the pain and brokenness, all that darkness, back to what we call sin. God had created a good world filled with light and life, but humanity turned from that light and sought their own way, cutting themselves off from the goodness of God.

But the good news of Christmas is that God didn’t leave the world in that desperate situation. To the problems of this world, God sent a solution. Into the darkness he sent a great light, and that light was Jesus. We can look at the darkness in the world and think, “God, why don’t you do something?” The good news of Christmas is that he has. I am glad that Christmas comes at the darkest time of year, just three days after the winter solstice, when the length of daylight is at its lowest, because it is a reminder that even in the darkest of days, God is making a way. He sees the brokenness of the world, has heard our cries and has answered us. He has not forgotten us. He has not forsaken us.

The dawn of a new era has come. No, everything has not yet been made right, but the sun is rising. At the first Christmas we received in part what someday we’ll receive in full.

We celebrate not only what God has done, but what God will do. The day is coming when all the darkness will be dispelled: the crooked made straight, the wrong made right. But in the mean time, Christ invites us to bring our pain, to bring him our failures, to bring him our sin. He wants us to show him the wounds where we have been hurt by others. Jesus wants to bring joy where before there was only sorrow, love where hate had abounded, peace where before there was only turmoil, and hope where there was none. Later in John’s gospel, chapter 8, we read that Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Christmas reminds us that Jesus wants us step into the darkness of our world and our lives, and bring light. There are many things we celebrate at Christmas, but this sticks with me, and that my friends, is why it is my favorite Christmas story. What is yours?