Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Beautiful, Ugly Story

During this “most wonderful time of the year” we hear much concerning what is commonly called the “most beautiful story ever told.” The drama of Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus is beautiful, romantic, and wistful; filling us with nostalgia. But let us be most careful not to forget what is most important about this beautiful story: The story is true.  

As Christians in a secular society, we can ill afford to romanticize away the reality, the historical reality, of the birth of God’s Son. We must, this Christmas and every Christmas, hold forth to an unbelieving world the historicity of Jesus' birth.  

Now, this holding forth of the Son of God's historical reality will not be looked upon with favor by some. Today, in the name of tolerance, “the most beautiful story ever told,” has become a most offensive story which should be left untold. To the few but powerful “tolerant” among us, the story of the birth of God’s Son is so ugly that it ought never to be spoken of in public places.  

So what is the Christian to do with such a beautiful, ugly story? I suggest to you that we follow, this Christmas and every Christmas, the example of some chosen misfits who experienced the reality of the infant Incarnate Son.
And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. (Luke 2:16-18)
Notice the shepherds do two things: 1) They “came” and “found” Mary and Joseph, and baby Jesus; and 2) They joyously and unashamedly--and I would venture to say breathlessly--told those who cared to listen [and even perhaps those who didn’t care to listen], the story of the newborn Child who was the Son of God. How could the shepherds possibly keep quiet?
Christians have done these same two things, every year, for over two thousand years. And we can and we should do these same two things again this year. We can and we should revisit, with awe and holy reverence, The Nativity. We can and we should “make widely known” what we know to be true. What do we know to be true? 

Well, we know to be true what the shepherds knew to be true, viz. The beautiful story of the birth of Jesus is “good tidings of great joy which will be to all people,” and the baby born in the “city of David” is the “Savior who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10,11).  

Certainly, the world was not overly receptive to the beautiful story as told by the shepherds. It never has been. There were scoffers then as there are now. After all, there is another side to the most beautiful story ever told, isn’t there?
An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt...for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” Then Herod...sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under...Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet saying, “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.” (Matt. 2:13,16-18)
Matthew shows us the terrifying depths of human depravity, the unmasked and hateful face of sin. When Christ was born in Bethlehem, there was an ugliness in the world. That ugliness was the consequence of human sin and it remains with us to this day. King Herod exemplifies how antichrist and anti-God philosophies inevitably result in antihuman behavior.  

Only when one understands the ugliness of sinful man can one even begin to truly appreciate the beauty of the birth of Jesus. What makes the “most beautiful story ever told” truly beautiful? It’s not simply the purity of Virgin Mary. Nor is it the tender strength of Saint Joseph. As beautiful as these things are, there’s more.  

What makes the story of Christmas beautiful is not found in man, but in God; specifically, in the God-man. Against the backdrop of a dark and ugly world, there shone and shines still, a beautiful and glorious Light. That the Creator Himself would enter into and redeem His rebellious creation is a beautiful grace beyond comprehension. It is the most beautiful story ever told because it recounts the most beautiful deed ever done: God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.  

I watch the same news programs as you. I see the same ugliness. Let’s revisit the Nativity of our beautiful, sinless Savior. Then let’s boldly, lovingly share what we find there. As you finish reading, close your eyes and journey along with me, “Silent, night, holy night, all is calm all is bright. Round yon Virgin mother and Child...”

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