Most of us can tell the story from memory. As we watch a children’s Christmas program, we can anticipate the next scene, and if a child mixes up words and sequence, or fails to come in on cue, we chuckle. When a choir and congregation sing carols, we are swept away by their beauty. Familiarity, tradition, and joy create the music and images of our seasonal highlights reel.
In our pandemic, we’re living through interruptions and changes. The simultaneous blooming of my summer roses, dying mums, and flowering azaleas persevering to make a final appearance in November, added an exclamation point proclaiming the unusual in my backyard. A few weeks ago, on a chilly Saturday morning, I looked for a peaceful constant.
I decided to re-read the accounts of Jesus’ birth. Yes, not a traditional read in early November, but in addition to the changeless scenes in the story, I found new insights.
- Zechariah: “And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” Even with a personal appearance by an angel, Zechariah doubted. (Luke 1:20)
- Elizabeth: “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” Elizabeth acknowledges God as the gift-giver in a long-awaited answer to prayer. (Luke 1:25)
- Mary: a picture of obedience in the unknown and confusing. Mary answered with submission.” “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38 NIV)
- Elizabeth: a friend who gives affirmation “Why am I so favored…?” and blessing “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:45)
- Mary: takes eyes off of herself and offers praise in what is humanly unthinkable and challenging. (Read her song here in Luke 1:46-55)
- Neighbors: rejoiced with Zechariah and Elizabeth’s blessing from God. “All the neighbors were filled with awe…”. (Luke 1:65)
- Zechariah: changes his tune so to speak and sings praise to God. “His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel…” (There’s more in Luke 1:67-79 NIV)
- Joseph: considers the situation and has complete acceptance (Matthew 1:18-20, Luke 2:4)
- The innkeeper: Mary and Joseph may have been disappointed and inconvenienced, but the innkeeper was positioned with no vacancies, so they had privacy (Luke 2:7)
- Jesus: an unknown infant with humble parents, but held potential to change the world in dramatic life-giving ways (Luke 1: 31-32) (Luke 2:7)
- The Shepherds: heard, moved quickly, shared the news, and praised God (Luke 2:18)
- Mary: quietly treasures and ponders all these things. (Luke 2:19)
- Simeon: one who waited patiently and finally saw (Luke 2: 25-34)
- Anna: a woman of prayer and worship who gave God thanks (Luke 2: 36-38)
- Mary and Joseph: return home and show complete obedience in life changes (Luke 2:39)
- The Magi: traveled a great distance, rejoiced, worshiped, and gave (Matthew 2:1-12)
Re-reading the familiar passages prior to Christmas prompted me to create a new personal highlights reel—one that reflects not only the scenes, but the qualities of key players, what they taught me, and character traits to embrace.
After reading my descriptions is there a person in the story whose example touched your heart in a new way; whose character trait stands out as one you want to develop and highlight in your life?
So in the few days before Christmas, why not set aside a few quiet moments to prepare a mug of hot cocoa or coffee, turn to Matthew 1-2 and Luke 2, and read the chapters for fresh insights. Perhaps you can find your personal highlights reel that sparks seeing Christmas through a new lens to encourage you in days ahead..
Blessings to you this Christmas as we read the story again with fresh eyes and new personal highlights. Marilyn
Winners of Martin Wiles books are: Louise Rogers (first comment!), Barbara Latta, Monty Hobbs, Lori Hatcher, and Shirley Brosious. Congratulations and enjoy reading! Thank you again, Martin.