Sometimes we get so busy that we can easily miss the real message of Christmas. It reminds me of when in December 1903, after many attempts, the Wright brothers were finally successful in getting their "flying machine" off the ground. Thrilled about their success, they telegraphed this message to their sister Katherine: "We have actually flown 120 feet. We’ll be home for Christmas." Katherine hurried to the editor of the local newspaper and showed him the message. He glanced at it and said, "How nice. The boys will be home for Christmas." But the editor had totally missed the big news—man had finally flown!
Many people today are like that editor when it comes to the Christmas story—they miss the bigger news. It is not just a holiday or festive season–it’s bigger news than that! Emmanuel has come—God is with us. God sent his Son, Jesus, who willingly came from the glorious splendor of heaven, to reveal his Father to all of us.
There is a website called 24/7 Wall Street that puts an unusual twist on Forbes Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. They call it the "100 Least Powerful People in the World List." The list includes corporate executives, athletes, politicians, and celebrities who share one common characteristic—they used to be powerful. Here is a sample of some "Winners" (or "Losers") that qualified for this year's "100 Least Powerful People in the World List":
Bill Ackman had the best returns of any hedge fund manager in 2014, which put him on the list of the top 20 best-performing hedge fund managers of all time. Ackman has since lost billions of dollars on his bet on Valeant Pharmaceuticals, whose stock plummeted after federal investigators probed the company’s drug pricing practices. He is no longer on the top 20 list.
Emperor Akihito, once held one of the most powerful positions in the world, but now the emperor of Japan has no political influence. Japanese law does not currently permit abdication, but Akihito has suggested he wished to do so. If the law were to change, and Akihito were to abdicate, it would be the first resignation of a Japanese emperor since 1817. The emperor’s stated wish to step down serves as a testament to the Emperor no longer being needed and to his limited influence.
Anthony Batts, a police commissioner, was the highest-ranking officer at the Baltimore Police Department, the eighth largest municipal police force in the country. After a spike in the number of homicides and the widely covered Baltimore riots, Batts was fired by the city and replaced immediately by then-deputy commissioner Kevin Davis.
Sepp Blatter, for seventeen years, was president of International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), the governing body of soccer — the most popular sport in the world. FIFA had been dogged by rumors of corruption for years, but Blatter adamantly denied these. He continued denying them even as evidence mounted that he and several other top officials had each been the recipients of tens of millions of dollars in under-the-table bonuses. In addition, Blatter was accused of racketeering and other ethics violations. FIFA forced Blatter to resign and banned him from attending FIFA soccer games for eight years.
Some of the individuals on this least powerful list were victims of circumstances; others made poor business decisions; and others lost their influence because of moral failure. But none of them chose to become powerless. In contrast, through his birth, incarnation, earthly ministry, and death on the cross, Jesus the all-powerful and sinless Son of God chose to be subjected to ridicule, criticism and hate.
Paul summed it this way in Philippians 2:6-8, “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”
Paul also points out in Romans 8:3 just how hopeless we would have been without Christ’s coming to earth, “The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.” Friends, that’s the biggest news you will ever read or hear about!
But consider the banal setting where God chose to share this news about his Son! No brilliant marketing scheme, no fanfare, just a few shepherds, and no paparazzi to cover the birth of heaven’s King. Why not roll out the red carpet and call the press for the biggest news story of all time? What was God thinking? This didn’t seem like a great way to introduce the birth of his Son. But then, we are not God, are we! Even when we think something is foolish, God’s foolish plan is wiser than the wisest of all human plans (see 1 Cor. 1:25).
Christmas is a story about Jesus coming down—down from glory, prestige and privilege, to a life of humble obedience to his Father’s plan. Christmas is also a story about going up—up from a baby to a Saviour on the cross, up from a grave to become our risen Lord and soon coming King of Kings. For those of us who know him already as our Saviour, Christmas is a story about transformation and hope–from a lost sinner to one who has been redeemed by his grace, from someone without hope to one who has been promised eternal life.
Unfortunately, every December, the meaning of Christmas is disparaged and corrupted. Merchants market His birth as one of the greatest retail income opportunities of the year. Consumers are driven to find the right toy or present or the right clothes for the office party. People will consume more alcohol or drugs–trying to get happier and hoping to either drown or numb their misery, despair and hopelessness. Others will protest or try to censure all nativity scenes or Christmas songs that mention Christ’s name. All around us we hear and see the antithesis of what God’s incarnational message was meant to communicate.
When the Saviour was born, the angel’s message was one of everlasting hope. “Don't be afraid!” "I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Saviour—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! The angel's good news message of great joy is still the best news ever! Today, eternal hope and life is available to all peoples, because Emmanuel has come—God is now with us in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ!
Be sure to share that good news with everyone and remind them that he is still the reason for the season. Click the following link to see a video reminding us of the meaning of Christmas.