Taken strictly as a fictional or even a historical narrative, the nativity is a miserable little story, isn't it?
The birth of the child called Jesus was preceded by, and brought with it, so much suffering and terror.
I mean–his mother could have been stoned to death for bearing him. His peers were slaughtered for being the same general age. The shepherds were terrified, the wise men from the east endured a journey so difficult it took them years to complete it and Simon had been standing in the temple for so long that he took one look at the child's face and said, Finally God! Now let me die, if you don't mind.
When I was a child, I saw a cherubic little baby and the stars and the angels.
When I was a young mother, bursting at the seams with my own unborn child during the Christmas season, Mary began to come into focus; and as I struggle through life, I begin to recognize all the other terrified, waiting, journeying, weeping characters.
And I have to ask–if I believe that the boy child, Jesus Christ was simply a man–even a good man or a great teacher–how can I justify rejoicing in his birth over the death and the suffering of all those other children? It doesn't compute; the basis of the entire Christmas season is horrific.
Which only leaves us to believe Mary's defense–that her child was literally the Son of God–that he suffered, died and atoned for all the sin and sorrow the world has ever known–Herod's, yours and mine.
Do you believe that unbelievable, incomprehensible claim?
I have not seen angels, and the stars are constant in my sky, but I do. If it were the blood of my own children running in the streets, or if I had to walk a thousand grueling miles in order to worship Him, I would still believe.
I know that my Redeemer lives.
I cannot explain that. I can only testify that I know that Jesus Christ was born as the Bible says he was born–of a mortal mother and an immortal Father–with the capacity to die, and the power to live again and it is that miracle that we celebrate, really. There is no Christmas without the empty tomb, no Christmas without hope as enduring as Simon's was in the temple of his God, no Christmas without serious consideration of the invitation to follow Him–in forgiveness, in compassion, in service and love:
"Come, follow me."
The path of discipleship isn't nearly as difficult as you might think. We have His help–and even when the mountain won't move, the burden won't budge, or the path is completely obscured, the promise He made to His disciples that dark night of his betrayal is still in effect: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you… Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
He will heal you. He will help you. He loves you. Just as you are. Today.
If you don't believe me–ask Him.
I dare you.