Did you know that the Christmas story itself is packed full of lessons? Here are 3 lessons we can learn from it, from Dr. Scott Morris.
- We learn that the angels worshiped.
Most of the accounts in the Bible of angels appearing describe just one angel bringing a message. Luke 2 also begins with one angel, but soon a “multitude of heavenly host” appeared. They were a congregation, a community whose job was to worship God. “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those he favors!” We sing these words in countless forms during the Christmas season. Notice that they connect God’s glory to the quality of life God wants us to experience—peace.
- We learn that the shepherds worshiped.
The angels left and the shepherds shot off to Bethlehem, where they found Jesus with Mary and Joseph. They could not keep from flapping their lips with the good news! Luke tells us they went back to their sheep “glorifying and praising God.” The shepherds had a new purpose now. It’s a great picture of how an encounter with God’s glory infuses new energy into our lives.
- We learn that the wise men worshiped.
Jesus was a little older by the time the wise men finished their long journey from the east and found Jesus with his mother in a house in Bethlehem. Matthew tells us they “knelt down and paid him homage.” Then they gave their famous gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The wise men were people of action, not just words. They went to great lengths to find out what that rising star meant. Their homage, or worship, called them out of their ordinary routines and into deeper meaning in a life with God.
All of these lessons point to one thing: that worship is good for our health. It draws us into community with others and reminds us that God’s story is bigger than our story. Research links attending religious services with better mental and physical health and suggests that personal spiritual practices may reduce stress—and thus all the physical manifestations of stress.
Now it’s our turn to worship and discover a picture of what God wants for the world. It’s our turn to worship and find renewed energy. It’s our turn to worship and journey into lives of deeper significance.
May God meet you in your Christmas journey this year.
Long time ago in Bethlehem
So the Holy Bible says
Mary’s boy child Jesus Christ
Was born on Christmas Day
Hark, now hear the angels sing
A new king born today
And man will live for evermore
Because of Christmas Day
While shepherds watch their flocks by night
They see a brand new shining star
They hear a choir sing a song
The music seemed to come from afar
Now Josef and his wife Mary
They come to Bethlehem that night
They have no room to bear the child
Not a single room was inside
Passing by they found a little nook
In a stable all forlorn
And in a manger cold and dark
Mary’s little boy was born
Trumpets sound, an angel sing
Listen to what they say
And man will live for evermore
Because of Christmas day
Foreign workers are gathering their families, packing their bags and leaving Brunei, where a ban on celebrating Christmas has been enforced since 2014 by an authoritarian regime happy to impose stiff penalties for any breaches of the law. Fearing Muslims would be led astray and convert to Christianity, the sultan of Brunei imposed full Sharia law in April, a culmination of an all-imposing Islamic legal system that was introduced step by step over the last six years.
In a move that bears striking similarities to Biblical stories from the Roman occupation of the Holy Land, Christians are only allowed to celebrate Christmas within the privacy of their own homes and only after they have notified authorities.
“The people in Muslim-dominated Brunei are quite tolerant and very easy to get along with, but the government is fearful of outside religions,” said one Western expatriate who fears Brunei’s harsh defamation laws and declined to give his name. Increasingly, foreign Christians working in Brunei spend Christmas time outside the Islamic country and return only in the new year.”
From the womb of Mother Church, the incarnate Son of God is born anew this night. His name is Jesus, which means: “God saves”. The Father, eternal and infinite Love, has sent him into the world not to condemn the world but to save it (cf. Jn 3:17). The Father has given him to us with great mercy. He has given him to everyone. He has given him forever. The Son is born, like a small light flickering in the cold and darkness of the night… Jesus the light of the world.
This is why the prophet cries out: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:1). There is darkness in human hearts, yet the light of Christ is greater still. There is darkness in personal, family and social relationships, but the light of Christ is greater. There is darkness in economic, geopolitical and ecological conflicts, yet greater still is the light of Christ.
May Emmanuel bring light to all the suffering members of our human family. May he soften our often stony and self-centred hearts, and make them channels of his love. May he bring his smile, through our poor faces, to all the children of the world: to those who are abandoned and those who suffer violence. Through our frail hands, may he clothe those who have nothing to wear, give bread to the hungry and heal the sick. Through our friendship, such as it is, may he draw close to the elderly and the lonely, to migrants and the marginalized. On this joyful Christmas Day, may he bring his tenderness to all and brighten the darkness of this world.
Read the full version of His Holiness Pope’s message; http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/urbi/documents/papa-francesco_20191225_urbi-et-orbi-natale.html
[The angel said to [the shepherds], “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”] ~ Luke 2:10-14
Glory to God in the highest! The celebration of the glorious birth of Christ the Lord has begun…Merry Christmas!
Try to put yourself in the shoes of these shepherds. Little excitement would have regularly come their way. They were poor, simple shepherds who spent their days and nights tending the sheep of the fields. That night, a group of them had gathered together for camaraderie. It’s easy to imagine the scene of normal talking, laughing and being together. Little did they realize what was about to happen.
As they were gathered, an angel of God appeared to them announcing “good news of great joy!” They must have been stunned. But that’s only the beginning. The angel announced that the Savior of the World had been born and then, much to their surprise, they witnessed the whole host of heavenly angels singing praises: “Gloria in excelsis Deo!” “Glory to God in the highest!”
These humble shepherds were the first to be called by God to go and greet the newborn King. What’s amazing is that God did not first call the “important” of the age to come worship. He called these poor shepherds.Read More »
As a newborn, Jesus was placed in a manger because there was no room in a proper shelter. And He was in that manger when the shepherds visited.
Not so with the Wise Men, however.
We’re introduced to the Wise Men (or Magi) in the Gospel of Matthew:
[After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”] ~ Matthew 2:1-2
Now, that word “after” at the beginning of verse 1 is kind of ambiguous. How long after? A day? A week? A few years?
Fortunately, we can infer from two pieces of evidence in the text that the Wise Men visited Jesus at least a year after His birth, and probably closer to two years. First, notice the details of Jesus’ location when the Wise Men did show up bearing their gifts:
[After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.] ~ Matthew 2:9-12 (emphasis added)Read More »