There are so many legends and customs that have become attached to Christmas that for some it may be difficult to discern the real story. For a lot of people the first things that come to mind are St. Nicholas, flying reindeer, and a toy manufacturing center at the north pole!
Unlike many made-up stories, the story of Christmas does not begin with “once upon a time,” or “long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.” The Christmas story is rooted in world history and geography. It was written by Luke, a scholar who was a physician, an historian, and a missionary, one of the finest minds of his day. At the beginning his gospel, he states that he had carefully researched the things he wrote about, based upon the testimony of eyewitnesses.
He positioned his story amid the sweeping movements of world history. He described humble, ordinary people of faith who were the focus of God’s interest and his special calling. Luke described the intervention in their lives of supernatural creatures of incredible brilliance and power, messengers of God. These messengers were sent from heaven to declare good news of great joy when they announced the birth of Jesus.
Luke’s gospel begins and ends with good news and joy. He fills his gospel with the good news of Jesus’ good words and good deeds: his healing, his compassion, his wisdom, his miracles, and his saving work on the cross. He is described as “Savior.” He is the Son of God. Luke records how, with divine foreknowledge, Jesus predicted his death and resurrection as the reason for his coming.
These things happened exactly as he had said they would. The message of Jesus’ death and resurrection is the good news of the Christian gospel because it is the basis for our hope of salvation.
So during Advent we peel off the layers of tradition even as we smile at dancing snowmen, elven mischief, and a partridge in a pear tree. We return to Judea and the true story of a young Jewish woman and her husband-to-be, to the real story of the towns of Nazareth and Bethlehem, to an inn and a stable, to a manger and to the blessed baby who was placed there, born to save us from our sins.
The best response to all of this is to believe that what Luke wrote about this baby is God’s truth. He lived a perfect life. He died for sinners. He rose from the dead to give eternal life to those who trust in him. He came to be the Savior. Luke says this story is the true story of Christmas and it is good news for all people — including you!
Pastor Randy Faulkner