I wonder what Christmas means to a mother who has lost her husband, who has 4 children to care for, works everyday but never making ends meet, never quite getting things done. What does Christmas mean to her?
I wonder what Christmas means to an 80 year old man in Zimbabwe, living in a hut, who knows nothing of shopping malls, or what a Christmas tree is. I wonder what Christmas means to him?
I wonder what it means to the little homeless children with smudges on their cheeks and sparkling eyes that look up and thank me for giving them one meal a week. What does Christmas mean to them?
I wonder what it means to missionaries who are half way around the world, separated from family and friends, sacrificing so much to bring the precious gospel message to those who have not heard. What does Christmas mean to them?
To store owners it means the busiest time of the year. Stores have longer hours and hire extra people, and it definitely means higher profit to help them get through the lean times ahead. For their employees it might mean a Christmas bonus, a little more money in their pockets to help with Christmas shopping.
To many adults and teenagers it means parties and fun. For children it is a time of impatience, with time passing so slowly as they wait for Christmas morning.
Do we go through all the buying presents, making special meals, and decorating, but somehow forget who's birthday it really is? It's Jesus' birthday and it might not be the exact day He was born, but it's a time for us to remember His birth and what it is supposed to mean to us.
Look at Luke 2:8-14
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
In those days shepherds were at the low end of the social ladder compared to all the influential people of that time. They weren't respected, lived in the fields with their animals, and had no power or prestige. Yet God chose to make the announcement to them. The fact that He chose the shepherds helps us to understand the real meaning of Christmas. God so loved the world that he gave his only son and He chose to announce it to the shepherds first of all, and in that one message God made known some very important truths.
First, it tells us that no matter how insignificant we think we are, God knows us and we are important to Him. All throughout the bible we see God using and honoring people that the world would overlook or ignore. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1: 26-28
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—
A young Jewish boy was sold into slavery by his brothers and carted off to Egypt. But, when God wanted a very important message delivered to the mighty pharaoh, It was Joseph the slave who was brought out of the dungeon to interpret that message. God uses the lowly and despised to show his power.
When God decided to choose a mother for His Son, He went passed all the the beauty parlors and fashion shops. He went passed all the diamonds and gold and went to a insignificant village called Nazareth. He chose a peasant girl who was not dressed in designer clothes, didn't have a sophisticated education, but she was pure so God chose her to be the mother of His only begotten Son.
When Christ comes, he is not born in Mt. Sinai Hospital with doctors and nurses around, He is born in a stable wrapped in cloths and laid in a manger, and when God delivers his announcement, He delivers it to shepherds. It is like Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, if God cares about sparrows and lilies, then he cares about you and me. The world will laugh at you and look down on you and say that that is foolishness. But, Paul says " The foolishness of God is wiser then man's wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger then any man's strength.
We need to hear that, don't we? Teenagers in orphanages watching the young kids getting adopted, and realizing that it probably won't happen for them. They need to hear that. Single mothers with no help from their estranged husbands need to hear that. Homeless people living on the streets, not knowing where their next meal will come from need to hear that. People who are lonely need to hear that. Widows or Widowers need to hear that. Everyone needs to hear that message. All of us have felt rejection in our lives, felt left out. Christmas comes and the light shines and God says "NO!" Your wrong. I made the announcement to the shepherds and He makes it to us. Unto you a Savior is born.
The second thing I think it teaches us is that life matters. Not only to us, but our lives count with God. Imagine those shepherds sitting around the campfire wondering if life was really worthwhile or not. Does it make a difference whether we watch the sheep or not? We, like the shepherds wonder too. What difference does it make if I get out of bed in the morning? Our lives are like endless cycles of things that seem to not mean anything, or make a difference. When God made his announcement to the shepherds, He is also saying to us that our lives are worthwhile, it is His gift to us. So we must live every golden moment of it, because your life Matters to Him. We should see that every life matters, everybody's life counts for something. It is impossible to live on this earth and not influence somebody in one way or another, good or bad.
I remember seeing a cartoon of 2 farmers standing in a field in Kentucky. Snow was falling lightly and one farmer said to the other "Anything exciting happen today?" And the other farmer says "Nothing exciting ever happens around here", " there was a baby boy born over at the Lincoln's place.". That baby grew up and became the President of the United States. He changed the course of history and liberated the slaves. One life can make a difference. I wonder if on that night there were people in Bethlehem standing around asking, "Anything exciting happening today? " And maybe they were told, "No nothing much", "Just some woman giving birth to a baby in a stable." "Nothing exciting ever happens around here." Except that baby changed the world.
Life matters, life counts. Your life and mine. Lives of shepherds and lives of kings. All are important to God.