It is a story of vast extremes…of a star and a stable…of angels and shepherds…of the most expensive gifts and the most inexpensive cloth…of time and eternity…of a holy God and sinful man.
Of Bethlehem, Phillips Brooks would write, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”
And so it was. All came together on that night in a stable in Bethlehem.
Before his birth, the angel of the Lord had instructed Mary to name her son Jesus, “For he shall save his people from their sins.”
Centuries before Mary brought her firstborn into the world, the prophet Isaiah would declare Him “Wonderful Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”
But the story goes back much further than that. Even before God created the heavens and the earth, the Lamb had been slain.
It seems God never does anything as an afterthought.
Ancient wisdom declares, “The wheels of time grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.” God took His time in letting this story unfold. He used the passing of centuries to reveal many things, not the least of which is the blindness of our stubborn human hearts.
No human has impacted history like this babe born in a stable and laid in a manger. It is little wonder he is known by so many names: Advocate; Lamb of God; The Resurrection and The Life; Shepherd and Bishop of Souls; Judge; Lord of Lords; Man of Sorrows; Head of the Church; Master; Faithful and True Witness; Rock; High Priest; The Door; Living Water; Bread of Life; Rose of Sharon; Alpha and Omega; True Vine; Messiah; Teacher; Holy One; Mediator; The Beloved; Branch; Carpenter; Good Shepherd; Light of the World; Image of the Invisible God; The Word; Chief Cornerstone; Savior; Servant; Author and Finisher of Our Faith; The Almighty; Everlasting Father; Shiloh; Lion of the Tribe of Judah; I Am; King of Kings; Prince of Peace; Bridegroom; Only Begotten Son; Wonderful Counselor; Immanuel; Son of Man; Dayspring; The Amen; King of the Jews; Prophet; Redeemer; Anchor; Bright Morning Star; The Way, The Truth and The Life.
But he is best known as “Jesus, the Christ, the only begotten Son of God.”
Regardless of what we choose to call him, “there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
It seems there was some debate during his life as to whom Jesus really was. One day he asked Simon Peter this penetrating question: “But whom say ye that I am?” Simon Peter was all over that question with the right answer: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus, in so many words, explained to Simon that he hadn’t figured that out on his own, but God had revealed it to him.
And so it is. If we are to have this Jesus revealed to us it must be experientially. God, the Father, must seek us, He must find us, He must draw us to Himself and He must transform us. It is all of grace. It is a gift, just like the babe born in a stable and laid in a manger.
Until God reveals Himself to us personally the Christmas story remains just that, a story…a story to be speculated upon and to be believed or disbelieved.
But if our spiritual eyes are opened, the story takes on a breathtaking dimension… one of “joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
In essence, we are not too far from Bethlehem. “For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday…”
May your Christmas be merry and bright.
Jack McCall is a motivational humorist, southern storyteller and author. A native Middle Tennessean, he is recognized on the national stage as a certified speaking professional.