The Greatest Gift of All
This is a great time of year to reflect upon what we are thankful for, what we have accomplished, and what we are looking forward to next year. Uncertainty was certainly the word for 2020. COVID-19 and a continually chaotic election left many of us scared for ourselves, our family and our country.
Fear is the number one motivating emotion, so it is easy to understand how fear can cause us to do things that we would not normally consider. Friendships have been broken by political views driven by fear. Wondering where a virus might be lurking or why someone is or isn’t wearing a mask has us on edge.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “There is nothing new under the sun." Fear has been ruling the lives of people for centuries. In fact, Christmas celebrates a historical event that shows great examples of fear. How have your fears been similar to the people associated with the birth of Jesus?
If you’re not a believer, neither was I at one time. However, I think you will identify with the struggles that real people have been facing for over 2000 years. Read on.
Think about the fear Mary must have had being approached by the Holy Spirit and finding herself a pregnant teenager prior to being married. Joseph dealt with fear of whose child was it, or the fear of what could happen to him or Mary. In fact, Jesus’ birth created so much fear that King Herod had all males under the age of two years old in Bethlehem murdered. All of these people were part of the same event and all responded to their fears differently.
Of course our favorite people of the historical account are the Shepherds:
“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, 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.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”
Shepherds stayed with their flock to protect them, much like our guardian dogs Lucy and Sam are doing right now. In the evenings, they would typically call their flock into a cave or fold (rock walled enclosure) to protect them from predators. Imagine, you’ve worked all day moving your flock to fresh pastures, you’re tired if not asleep, and one of the greatest light shines and a choir of angels appears in the middle of literally nowhere.
What was the first thing they were told? Fear not.
Plus, they took action. They went to Bethlehem and verified what they were told and shared their experience with Mary and others. It’s interesting that people “wondered at what the shepherds told them”. Not to mention, for shepherds to be in town instead of with their flocks, is a rare occurrence.
We celebrate Christmas by giving gifts because Jesus was a gift to humankind. Just because you are given a gift, doesn’t mean you have received a gift. Only when you open your mind and your heart to receive the Greatest Gift of All, Jesus can you receive Him.
I struggled for many years to understand the true meaning of Christmas, but now I am so thankful for His gift of salvation from our sins. The gift is for everyone, including you. All you have to do is receive it. Ask Him to come into your life and forgive you. He will. Then live your life in a “Fear not” style.
On a more personal note, this is our first Christmas without my “favorite” Mother-in-law (she loved it when I told her that), Joyce Bodeen. I remember going to my wife’s family Christmas the first year and Joyce read the Christmas account from Luke 2 while her whole family was gathered around. Then, she would say a prayer for all of her family to know Jesus and be together with her in heaven some day. It certainly worked on me. Every Christmas the tradition continued.
Shortly after Christmas last year, Joyce joined the choir of angels in heaven, and her prayer of her family being with her has been answered so far, but there’s a lot of great, and great-great grandchildren and generations to come. It will certainly be different this year without Joyce, but I am so thankful for her and our family.