Christmas begins what Easter celebrates. The child in the cradle becomes the King on the cross. Because of Bethlehem, we have a Savior in heaven. No one expected God to come the way he did. Yet the way he came was every bit as important as the coming itself. The manger is the message. Jesus’ birth gives us the promise that God is always near us, always for us, and always in us.
Why was God willing to enter the world of animals and shepherds and swaddling clothes? A chief reason is this: He wants us to know that he gets us. God took on the face of man in the hope that we would see his. Everything changes for us when we see the face of God. How ready are you for the arrival of the King?
The angels gave Jesus the gift of worship. Anytime we trust an object or activity to give us life and meaning, we worship it. When we make good things our ultimate things, we set ourselves up for disappointment. To worship replacements for God is to be satisfied, then brokenhearted; infatuated, then discouraged; enthralled, then angry. Worship does to the soul what a spring rain does to a thirsty field. It soaks down, seeps in, and stirs life.
The magi's story is our story. We're all travelers in need of direction. God gives it. The ultimate aim of all God's messages is to shed the light of heaven on Jesus. He uses Scripture, the natural world, and our personal experiences with him to send us signals and messages: Hope. Life. Love.
If Jesus was willing to be born in a barnyard, expect him to be at work anywhere. No place is too common. No person is too hardened. No distance is too far. There is no limit to his love. In the manger, God loves us. Through the cross he saves us. And he prepares us for our forever home by pruning us, decorating us, surrounding us with his grace, and placing us to make a difference in the world.