It’s our responsibility as Christians to give what’s real this Christmas.
The human memory is a mysterious thing. We can feel like a distant moment “happened only yesterday” but can’t remember what we ate for lunch. Or we can be certain we are recalling an event exactly as it happened, only to be find that our recollection is in conflict with another person who was there.
We depend on eyewitness testimony in our justice system, but it is notoriously unreliable. We romanticize the past. Or exaggerate it. And a recent study shows just how malleable our memories can be. A study out of the University of Warwick in the UK even “demonstrated that about half of individuals will come to believe a fictional event occurred if they are told about that event and then repeatedly imagine it happening.” On the devious side, the pliability of our minds is the basis of brainwashing.
In short: our memories are poor. We are forgetful beings. We can easily replace truth with lies if we are not vigilant.
During Christmas, there is a lot of fiction thrown into the mix with the historical fact of Jesus’ birth. We get caught up in the “magic” of the season, the imagined characters of film and fantasy, the pageantry and spirit of the Christmas season. Even those of us who are professing Christians can celebrate the entire season without consciously and intentionally sifting what is true from what is not.
God is aware of our human weakness and forgetfulness. God gives us His Word to help us remember what is True and weed out fact from fiction.
We need to be reminded of the truth because we are easily distracted by many things. So we must remember, reconnect with and repeat, what is real this Christmas:
The real story of a real couple named Zechariah and Elizabeth, who were unable to conceive a child and long past their childbearing years. Yet, God opened her womb, so that John the Baptist would prepare the way for the Messiah.
The real story of a real woman named Mary, who was visited by a real angel. The true story of the only real virgin birth in all history.
The real story of a real man named Joseph, who went through with the marriage to his betrothed, even though she was pregnant and claiming to have known no man. The real story of a man who followed God even when he knew public humiliation and questioning would be sure to follow him his entire life.
The real story of real shepherds who, while watching real sheep on a real night, near a real town called Bethlehem, suddenly heard a real heavenly choir of real angels singing, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” The real story of when they left their posts to worship the God of the Universe who came as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.
The real story of a real Roman named Herod, a man who really did have all the male children in the town of Bethlehem murdered with the hope of killing of the one real baby Messiah he viewed as an existential threat.
The real story of the wise men, who followed a star to offer the baby gold and frankincense and myrrh. And the real story of being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, allowing Mary, Joseph and Jesus to really escape as real political refugees to Egypt.
And Bethlehem is a real place, where real people lived over 2,000 years ago and real people still live today. Real prophecies were really fulfilled there on the night a real baby was born on a day we now call Christmas.
Does it all seem unreal, as if it happened a long time ago in a galaxy far far away? I pray we do not fall for the sneaky, crawling lie of making the real story of Christmas just another episode in a holiday season that also includes Frosty, the Nutcracker, Santa, Rudolph, Elf, and the like.
The greatest threat to Christmas is not that people say “Happy Holidays” or write “Xmas” or try to edit out the Luke monologue in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. It is the Christian who lives and celebrates the season as if the birth of our Savior is one more “magical” fanciful story set beside all the other joyful fiction of the season.
The reality of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is something the eyewitnesses did not want people to forget. The Apostle Peter says in 2 Peter 1:12-15 as his own death approached, “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.” Here we see the role each of us plays in the lives of others: we are responsible to stir up reminders of the truth – to help one another remember what is really real and truly true.
Our calendars say we are in 2016 AD—Anno Domini—the year of our Lord. That does not mean that 2016 years now cascade like dominoes into the next. No! It is a marker in time that declares that 2016 years ago the world changed forever because of a historically verified fact: the birth of Jesus. So, the question is, what will you do with it this fact of history?
Remembering is not confined to an act of the mind. Yes, we remember the reality of the virgin birth and the reality of the star and the reality of the angels and the reality of the shepherds and the reality of the wise men, but to re-member is more than that. Jesus must also be born in our hearts and we, reborn into a living hope in Him. The fact of the matter is that Christmas is not Christmas without Good Friday and Easter. So, as you remember the Christ who came at Christmas, remember the fullness of His history changing story.