From the President

I have a friend who thinks the Christmas season is way too short. His answer: he starts early. I was with him this October and I noticed he was playing Christmas music in the background. His assistant who was nearby said, “You should have been here last year. He started in July.”

I have similar feelings. I love the music of the season. But there is another reason I’m writing about Christmas now. The traditional season does not give us the time we need to ponder the great truths surrounding Jesus’ birth and life. So in a month when much of the world is still emerging from winter, it is time to reflect on some people vital to the Christmas story without being hampered by the busyness and distractions of December.

I have been struck by the courage of three individuals and one group who appear in the story of Jesus’ birth. Their willingness to do what they felt God was leading them to do is a tremendous example of how we should live even in the dead of winter.

My four are: Mary, Joseph, the Magi and Jesus Himself. Let’s begin with Mary. She was probably a teenager. If she were alive today, she might be involved in Young Life. (Yes, we do have Young Life in Nazareth!) Can you imagine one of the kids you know in your local Young Life club coming to you with the story that an angel had spoken to her and told her she would conceive and give birth to the Son of God and all this would happen while she was still a virgin? Would you have believed her even if she told you the exact words the angel said? Probably not. And if you wouldn’t believe her, do you think her friends at school, her family at home and anyone else in the community would? Did she decline the opportunity? No. She answered with these words, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38, NIV). Whatever the cost, I’m willing.

Then there’s Joseph. He’s engaged to a lovely young woman. I’m sure he’s looking forward to marriage. Then his fiancée comes to him with an unbelievable story of why she’s pregnant. He doesn’t buy it. Described as a “righteous man,” he will end the relationship quietly. But an angel appears to him in a dream, and gives Joseph more information. “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” Did this change the carpenter’s life? Radically. But this small-town man had been chosen and he was obedient.

Then there are the Magi, the Wise Men. They were not Jews; they were Gentiles. But they felt led to follow the star on a very long and dangerous journey from the East. They were courageous, adventurous, bold. They defied King Herod. Their role was so important that the Bible includes them in this Christmas story.

Finally and foremost there is Jesus Christ. Paul summarizes who he is and what he did in Philippians 2. “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness ... he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross.” Jesus experienced rejection, pain and the penalty of our sin! And that’s the heart of the Christmas story.

Courage, conviction, obedience, salvation. All topics too important to be left for December.​