It was during the Christmas season four or five years ago that I began my journey back to God. In my story is the Christmas story, but not the one you’re used to.
Do you remember the Christmas story that was told to you as a child? Unfortunately, the story is barely reworked and preached to us as adults. It goes a little like this: Angels appeared to an unwed, virgin Mary, and told her she’d be bearing the Messiah. Joseph ended up being cool with it, and nine months later, Jesus was born. There was a little trouble with Herod, so the three fled to Egypt. Fast forward quite a few years, and Jesus is a happy, healthy, and humble man. He decides to preach His Father’s message, and next thing you know, He’s in trouble, being crucified. Three days later, He is resurrected, and the world has never been the same. (Wipes forehead.) Phew! Does that about sum it up? Basically, Jesus was an innocent babe who grew up to be an innocent man who was wrongly persecuted by the higher powers.
So much of the Christmas Story regurgitated today by mainstream pastors and youth pastors who can’t even bother to not wear flip flops frames Jesus as a victim of circumstance. God was in control, yes, but Christ was still crucified unjustly for His message.
It was that type of story that took me away from the church. How am I supposed to believe in a religion when the head of it (Christ) couldn’t keep Himself alive? He couldn’t even beat the Romans, so how could He be our Savior – our Messiah? (Funny thing: after all my research, I realize that my thinking mirrors closely that of the 1st Century Jews. They couldn’t picture their Messiah losing to the Romans either – their great Davidic Warrior King.)
So, I wasn’t buying the Christmas Story. A virgin giving birth? A baby born into abject poverty that rose up to “save” a nation? And by save, I mean He wound up crucified on a cross. That’s not inspiring…at all. I was taught that Christ was a victim. Nobody came out and said those exact words, but the implications were there.
Then, I went to a bible study. It had just started. In fact, I think I was attending the very first one. As I walked up to the Sanctuary, where our studies used to be held, I remember being nervous. I had no idea what to expect. A part of me didn’t want to go, but there was another part of me that almost felt a magnetic pull towards the pews. I sat down and prepared myself to hear a Christmas-themed message in a study format.
The pastor introduced us to the Gospel of Matthew, and that night we began our diligent walk through the first book of the New Testament – verse by verse, chapter by chapter, and theme by theme. Now, for those of you who don’t know, Matthew starts out with the genealogy of Christ (go check out our Christmas series recordings for a great message on this topic), which sounds boring. But it isn’t…
The more I learned in these studies, the more I saw a subtle reframing taking place in my brain, heart, and soul of the Christmas story. That innocent babe laying in the dirty manger didn’t go on to live a life according to circumstances; He wasn’t subject to the whims and demands of the Pharisees. He wasn’t blindsided by Judas. And He most certainly wasn’t the victim of the cross. It wasn’t our study of Matthew but our study of John that really solidified my new outlook on the Word. Everything from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 has been, is being, and will be done according to His plan. The Christmas story was all according to His plan. But nobody would let Christ into their home! They shut their doors! It may tug at your heart strings, but when you take the emotion out if it, I hope you realize that it was done according to God and Jesus’ plan. This was all mapped out.
I became a full-fledged believer when I stopped seeing Jesus as a victim, because He wasn’t. He was born in the exact way Him and God had planned – a way that a Passover Lamb should be born. He didn’t die from crucifixion at the hands of the Romans and Sanhedrin. He willed His soul out of His body. Did He suffer? Yes. But Passover lambs suffered. They were sacrificed. Without blood, there is no atonement. Without blood, there is no cleansing of sins. His will had to be done according to a specific, perfect way, and it was.
This Christmas, try to look at the birth and childhood of Christ from this angle. It might be a new angle to you, but it’s an empowering angle. The Jesus I began to see, to learn about was a divine being, who was in total and complete control at all times. On Earth, He was a man, who lived a perfect life – every heartbeat spent in obedience and love with God. Just the thought leaves me speechless. So, here’s a question for you: what Jesus do you see?
Do you see the innocent babe born in Bethlehem, who would never catch a break in life, ultimately dying at the hands of others? Or, do you see the warrior king? Do you see Jesus, a member of the divine Godhead, who executed His and His Father’s plan down to the minute detail?
Merry Christmas to all, and to our Lord, Yehoshua, who was born around this time thousands of years ago, we thank you, we love you, and we’ll see you soon.