by Matthew Ellison
The “Christmas Chapter” is one of my favorite chapters in the greatest love story of all time. Anyone reading this grand event will be warmed with joy one minute and be shedding tears of gratitude the next. One rejoices with Mary as she realizes that she will be the earthly mother of the Messiah, yet sheds tears as he reads of the division it brings into the life of two people madly in love with each other, as she and Joseph were.
How can anyone read about the shepherds on the dark hills, guarding the flocks of sheep under their watch and care, and not sense the complete moments of fear that must have gripped them as their peaceful night was interrupted by a bright light and talking celestial beings? Surely, they must have initially been scared nearly to death. But yet, imagine the great calm that must have gripped their hearts as they realized they were talking to God’s messengers. The point is, this “Christmas Chapter” is full of beauty. It is an emotional roller coaster for sure...but then again, aren’t all love stories?
One of the main “characters” in this love story is often overlooked. We look at characters such as Joseph, Mary, Simeon, the shepherds, and the wise men, and we examine the inn keeper and even the hustling and bustling crowds of people rushing about. This great event is surely going to affect each one of these “characters” differently. But what about God the Father? We get so caught up in examining the lives of these earthly characters, that we sometimes forget, unintentionally, the main, heavenly character. Without question, this event would greatly touch the heart of the Father. This event is a reminder that God knows, LOVE HURTS!
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and all that is within them. He liked it and called it good. Yet God longed for part of His creation to have the ability to “choose” to love and worship Him, so He created man in His own image and He breathed into him His own breath and man became a living being, and God was pleased and said it was good. Things were going well. The love and worship that Adam and Eve gave God resulted in sweet communion, peace, and fulfillment, all around. But then came that sad day when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God. That was the day that man, God’s greatest creation, broke God’s heart.
Things spiraled out of control in this world. Evil grew. Hatred towards one another grew. Murder became a regular occurrence. Vices from hell itself reigned in every land. Man was on a mission. That mission was to fulfill the desires of the fleshly self. In doing so man continually broke the heart of God. God tried to heal it all. He spoke to His people. He showed mercy to the heathen. He was lenient with them when they deserved great judgment. Time and time again God faithfully tried to bring man back to Himself. Ultimately, there was really only one way this could happen. Restoration could only happen with a blood sacrifice, so God initiated the Ceremonial Law.
Man would have to offer sacrifices of lambs, the most perfect lambs they could find, for their sinfulness to be properly dealt with. This was only a temporary fix because it was powerless over the grip of sin and evil.
Enter God’s amazing love. There was a remedy, but it was going to be costly. It would cost God His only Son. Jesus, the sinless, spotless Lamb, would have to die and shed His life’s blood for the power of sin to be broken once and for all. Such a decision is without question painful, but yet He gave His Son without hesitation. In doing so, He proved to that generation, and all that would follow, how much He really loves us. It was a choice He made that would forever define true love. What He did in that decision would forever lay the foundation of real love as being a selfless, sacrificial act!
Dick Hills illustrated it this way. “She was lying on the ground. In her arms she held a tiny baby girl. As I put a cooked sweet potato into her outstretched hand, I wondered if she would live until morning. Her strength was almost gone, but her tired eyes acknowledged my gift. The sweet potato could help so little -- but it was all I had. Taking a bite she chewed it carefully. Then, placing her mouth over her baby’s mouth, she forced the soft warm food into the tiny throat. Although the mother was starving, she used the entire potato to keep her baby alive. Exhausted from her effort, she dropped her head on the ground and closed her eyes. In a few minutes the baby was asleep. I later learned that during the night the mother’s heart stopped, but her little girl lived.”
This mother’s love was never debated. She never asked, “Should I, or should I not put my baby first?” No, even though she knew that she, herself, was near death, her heart’s desire was that her little girl make it through the night alive. God never for a moment debated, “Should I, or shouldn’t I send My only Son to die for man’s sinfulness and rebellion?” His heart’s desire was simply to see His creation have the opportunity to go through this life, free from the power of sin, and with the ability to love and worship Him freely. So, without hesitation, God responded with love...with a love that cost...a love that hurt!