Thinking About Christmas: Bethlehem

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; we are big fans of Christmas at our house. As a parent, Christmas is a great time to focus your family’s attention on the gospel. Christmas is the story of the gospel, and we want our children to be raised with the gospel of Jesus constantly before their eyes and ears. In this blog I want to share with you some of how we think and talk about Christmas in the Gravely house.

Luke 2:9-12 is one of the passages we always read as a family for Advent. It is a very familiar story that raises a very important question.

Luke 2:9-12 – And an angel of the Lord appeared to [the shepherds], and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

There are many different ways to do Advent, but all of them involve reading about Bethlehem, the shepherds, and the manger. The story is a familiar one to most of us. God became a human being so that he might be close to us and save us, but he did it in a way no one expected. God found a young unmarried Hebrew named Mary—a woman who loved God and was anxiously waiting for his coming—and by the power of the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus, God in the flesh, in her womb. Mary and her fiancé Joseph then returned to Bethlehem in answer to a census, and while there, Jesus was born in a stable and visited by shepherds who had been sent there by angels to see the birth of the Lord.

It seems very unusual that the King of the Universe would be born in a stable to peasant parents and to an audience of poor shepherds. Why would God do such a thing?

Christmas is ultimately a time when we remember God’s love. It is God’s love that explains Bethlehem. God was born as a human to demonstrate his desire to be close to us, to be one of us, so he could save us. God was born in a tiny little town to poor peasants to demonstrate his love for all people. God chose the lowliest and least significant among us to be his parents and the audience for his birth, so that we might see just how much God loves the whole world. God was born poor so that we might understand that the love of God and the grace of God aren’t about merit. They can’t be earned. They are purely gifts from him, because he is love.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

(2 Cor 8:9)

Christmas is a great time to remember God’s love and demonstrate it to others. Most of us will spend Christmas buying, wrapping, and giving gifts. As we give gifts to the people we love, we remember the gift of God’s grace to us. It is a time full of love, and it is a lot of fun. But we want even more for our family. We want to see this season not just as a chance to love those who love us back, but we want to see this season as a chance to love our enemies, just as God did. We want to see this season as a chance to bless people who can never bless us back, because God loved them so much, he was willing to be born in a manger that they might be saved.

That’s an even better way to spend Christmas.

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