Matthew 1:21 – She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. (NIV)
Luke 2:6-7a – While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. (NIV)
Those childhood days seem long ago, as I recall with some nostalgia the Sunday School concerts in that little white-frame church nestled near the Chippewa River in Ontario, Canada. One particular evening, we had prepared to celebrate the birth of Jesus in a pageant. Nervous boys clad in trailing, brown bathrobes were the shepherds. Little girls clad in long, white dresses and wearing white, tinselled wings stood in as the angels in the story. The centrepiece on stage was the manger with its baby doll, whose identity we all knew to be symbolic of Jesus. The story was dear and familiar:
Luke 2:1 – And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (KJV)
This scene was replayed many times over my growing years and well into adulthood. I knew that the Baby in this story became the grown Jesus, but more years would pass before the significance of this Baby Jesus would have a profound impact upon my life.
Three of the four gospels, Matthew, Luke, and John, tell this wondrous story, each in a unique fashion. Luke's telling of it may be the best known, with Mary and Joseph travelling to Bethlehem where the Baby is born in a stable. It is this story that fastened itself firmly onto my childhood heart.
Later, Matthew's writings came to have special meaning for me. Today's verse from Matthew indicates that Joseph was to "give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." The name "Jesus" in the Greek is equivalent to "Joshua" in the Hebrew. It means, "the Lord saves". This is how the "special meaning" came about:
Over the years, I had accumulated a sense of guilt for various acts of "commission" and "omission": words hastily spoken, failure to do a kindness when I might have — an odd assortment of failures like the collection of leftover buttons in a seamstress's jar. I did not know where to put these uncomfortable guilt memories, until one day, inspiration struck home. I had read that Jesus forgives "whatever" and "whenever". Surely that couldn't mean me? It required faith for me to believe. That was hard. Surely my sins were too big and too many! I struggled with this, but then, one day, I chose, I made a decision to believe. I accepted Jesus as my Saviour. From that moment on, my life changed! Jesus gave me a new way of living under God's grace!
The Babe in the manger can change us all. God sent this Jesus to show His unconditional love for each one of us. In this special time of celebration, our hearts can know true joy, for Jesus came to be God with us, our Saviour and our Lord, who grants us mercy and forgiveness.
Prayer: God with us, we anticipate with joy the celebration of the birth of Your Son, Jesus. He is indeed the source of grace and mercy. Help us, God, to joyfully clasp close to our hearts His presence with us during this Christmas season, and through all our days. Amen.
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