The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14
na·tiv·i·ty – nəˈtivitē: “Birth, especially the place, conditions, or circumstances of being born.” also, “The occasion of a person’s birth.”
In its simplest form, the Nativity refers to the birth of Jesus. There, out in a cow-shed, to a homeless family, and about to begin his life as a political refugee.
The longer version is one of those, “Let’s sit down in front of the fire with a pot of coffee, we’ve got a lot to talk about,” stories.
WHERE TO BEGIN? When I’m teaching, I sometimes like to ask people to imagine sharing the Christmas Story with someone who knows nothing about Jesus. “Pick up your Bible,” I say, “then turn to the passage of scripture you’d use as a starting point. Please don’t collaborate with anyone else. Now, write the scripture down – along with a sentence or two of explanation – and pass it over to me when you’re ready.”
I ask people to write it down because I don’t want anyone to change their answer when they hear what someone else has to say. Here are just a few examples.
- “I’d start with the shepherds on the hillside; right when the angels show up. Listen up! Have we got some news for you!”
- “Definitely the wise men. They saw something brand-new and exciting, so they had to find out what was going on. What an adventure!”
- “The annunciation. Gabriel telling Mary about the baby. That’s the moment it all started.”
- “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John chapter One.”
- “My favorite Christmas passage is the prophesy from Isaiah. Unto us a child is born! I want to start the story with some anticipation.”
Personally, I don’t think there’s a wrong place to start; the key is an authentic narrative, something that comes from the heart of the one telling the story rather than a rote rehash of someone else’s notes. But for me, the story of the Nativity has to be told – at some point – from the very beginning. And that very beginning place is The Garden, where people were in a right relationship with God.
JESUS: Listen to this scripture from Luke 24, where Jesus is explaining things to a couple of disciples on the road to Emmaus after the crucifixion in Jerusalem. “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, Jesus explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
Later, in the book of Acts, Peter, Stephen, and then Paul begin most of their messages somewhere back in the Old Testament, laying the groundwork, making a case for why God would do something so outlandishly risky as to break into time and space in the form of an infant.
And we can really only understand that if we hear about how our relationship with God broke down in the first place. And then it’s only natural to talk about:
- how God purposed to reach back into this world by establishing a Covenant with Abraham;
- how the Children of Israel were then organized around the Law;
- generation after generation of failure and disappointment;
- the inevitable expansion of legalism as a desperate solution;
- the introduction of ideas such as “redemption;”
- the words, the warnings, and the promises of the prophets;
- the way certain individuals genuinely loved God and honored the Covenant;
- and about the increasing distance between God and people that left humankind farther and farther away from their Creator than ever before…
Then, in great compassion and unbounded love and because of perfect faithfulness, God became completely vulnerable and entered time and space in the form of a newborn baby, born of a refugee family in a cow-shed behind the Motel 6, in a village that wasn’t even home and from which his parents had to flee for their lives.
That is The Nativity. That is why this is such an amazing time of the year. That is why I am filled with hope, and confidence, and promise – DEREK
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