“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” — Luke 2:11
How many times have we read or heard this verse from Luke’s account of the birth of Christ? We’re familiar enough with it that we may take a specific word in the verse for granted – Savior. But think if you had been one of the shepherds…can you imagine how they must have felt upon hearing this? The angel didn’t say “for unto you is born this day…a man who will bring love and peace to the world” or “for unto you is born this day…a man who will be an inspiration to millions.” No, the angel announced to those shepherds the birth of the Son of God who would be sacrificed for the sins of the world. Sometimes we tend to forget that part of the story. We want to celebrate the birth but don’t want to be bothered thinking about the consequences of it until Lent comes around. Yet, that is exactly what we should be thinking on during the season of Advent and Christmas.
As Christians we often become frustrated, perhaps even angry, that the secular world is waging a so-called War on Christmas. We bristle at the store clerks when they wish us “Happy Holidays!” at the check-out counter. We roll our eyes when we’re invited to the company “holiday tree” lighting ceremony. We’re repulsed by the crass commercialization of Christmas in spending frenzies like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Our President has entered the fray by proclaiming that ‘Christmas is back, bigger and better than ever before. We’re bringing Christmas back’ in regards to his effort to get people to say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.” The White House website mentions how the President wants to bring back the “religious spirit” of Christmas, whatever that means.
Is that what we want? A return to the good old days when everyone said “Merry Christmas”? In fact, we know that even if we are successful in getting the world to say a simple phrase that will not change anything. That in itself will not miraculously turn the world to a sudden recognition of what the birth of Christ means. We ourselves are also guilty of this very thing. To be sure, Christmas is a time for hope, joy, and expression of our love for others. But it should also be a time to remember why Jesus was ever born. Not so we would have a festive season of giving and merriment, but so he could one day suffer and die as the Savior of all nations.
Why lies He in such mean estate
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear; for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross He bore for me, for you;
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The babe, the son of Mary!
What Child is This
— Lutheran Service Book, Hymn 370 verse 2
Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe!