Since about 400 AD, Christians have celebrated the birth of Jesus. ‘Christ’ means ‘Messiah’ or ‘Anointed One’ – the title given to Jesus – and ‘Mass’ was a religious festival.
But the real Christmas story is found in the Bible. It is told in two different books: Matthew and Luke chapters 1 and 2. If you have no Bible, you can read these chapters online. You may think that the story of the birth of Jesus, and the way that the West celebrates Christmas today, do not seem to have many connections.
The old man with the sack ‘Father Christmas’ (or ‘Santa Claus’) has become the human face of Christmas. Pictures will be seen everywhere of the old man with long white beard, red coat, and bag of toys. Children are taught that he brings them presents the night before Christmas (or in some countries on December 6th – St. Nicholas’ Day), and many children up to the age of 7 or 8 really believe this is true. In most countries, it is said that he lives near the North Pole, and arrives through the sky on a sledge (snow-cart) pulled by reindeer. He comes into houses down the chimney at midnight and places presents for the children in socks or bags by their beds or in front of the family Christmas tree.
In shops or at children’s parties, someone will dress up as Father Christmas and give small presents to children, or ask them what gifts they want for Christmas. Christmas can be a time of magic and excitement for children.
Who was he?
Father Christmas is based on a real person, St. Nicholas, which explains his other name ‘Santa Claus’ which comes from the Dutch ‘Sinterklaas’. Nicholas was a Christian leader from Myra (in modern-day Turkey) in the 4th century AD. He was very shy, and wanted to give money to poor people without them knowing about it. It is said that one day, he climbed the roof of a house and dropped a purse of money down the chimney. It landed in the stocking which a girl had put to dry by the fire! This may explain the belief that Father Christmas comes down the chimney and places gifts in children’s stockings.
But Christmas dates far before Nicholas lived. Way back.
According to the history, St. Nicholas was a good man. If a great tradition can be formed behind one good man, how much more can we glean if we look deeply into the life of the person behind this beautiful season –
Before Jesus, actually. A young virgin who said “yes.”
The Lady who said “yes.”
I re-imagined this from the Biblical account:
The house was spick and span – Dad would be happy. She sat at on a stool and stretched her legs, satisfied with the work she had done in the house. She didn’t clean because she was coerced into doing that. In fact, she loved it when things are prim and proper.
More so, she always wanted her parents to smile. It took only few muscles to smile and some chemicals that strengthen the body are released when you smile. She wanted her parents to live strengthened and happy, so she did her chores well.
As she turned out towards the door, the dark room lit up. She thought electricity had been restored so she flicked off the switch. No. The brightness persisted and then she heard a masculine voice.
Mary was a virgin when God said she would conceive a child. That was clearly impossible by human reasoning.
But Mary says “yes”
This was no ordinary birth! She was not married, she was a virgin, (yes, really!) and an angel had told her she would bear a special baby. Her husband-to-be, Joseph, did not believe her at first. Who would?
Then an angel told him in a dream that it was true! Probably no one else believed it. So when they had to travel from their home in Nazareth to Bethlehem (near Jerusalem), to register their names with the ruling Roman government, they probably escaped many hard words from other people. And they endured a stressful journey.
We learn that Jesus was born because someone said yes to God.
Quick considerations for you
I want you to top that difficult chemistry class. I want you to be a missionary. I want you to forgive Sade. What is God telling you to do? How do we respond when God asks us to do something impossible like this?
Let’s learn from Mary today.
Often times, when we are overwhelmed with great responsibility in our Christian life and service, we are tempted to ask, like Mary did: How will these things be?
We feel inadequate when we compare responsibility in the light of our little abilities. But as I read through Mary’s story, I discovered that God didn’t intend to laden us with responsibility without first empowering us with the ability to do it. He doesn’t say what He doesn’t mean.
He meant for Mary to bear the Christ. He means for you to take up that great responsibility. He means for you to make better choices in your life and live sanctified.
The angel told Mary: the power of God will come upon you. That is what makes the difference. God always gives you the ability to accomplish all he asks you to do. Also, God will show you an example of someone who has passed through that situation and was empowered like was Elizabeth an example to Mary.
‘for with God, nothing will be impossible.’
In essence, it isn’t really us doing anything, it’s actually God at work in us – all He wants from us is to submit so that He can express his divinity through us. It’s not your life anyway!
Mary submitted to God, and so the world had her Saviour. You may never really know how many people will be blessed or what remarkable result is tied to your obedience.
What is God telling you to do? See, He has made available to power to do it. Let your response be, “Let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:26-38
Why not say this prayer:
Lord, for the work you have given me, I have learnt that you will give me the ability. Open my eyes to see what you have provided and the joy of obedience and help me to contact the power and grace to do it well.
Mary says “yes”
Next on this series is something you probably would not have thought of before. Coming soon.