Human beings have definitions of hope that are different from God’s. We might hope the Dolphins win the Super Bowl, or we might hope we don’t contract the COVID virus. But the biblical definition of hope is not just a hope so, but a know-so. Our hope in God is surer than the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening. The “hope” that we experience at Christmastime was sealed when God came down to earth, became a man, lived a sinless life, then willingly went to the cross to pay for our sins. The hope of Christmas is real, in fact, there is nothing more certain than the hope we experience when we accept God’s gift of salvation. The idea of “God with us” that we celebrate and sing about at Christmas is foundational to our core beliefs as Christians.
A story many years ago recited by newsman Paul Harvey, gives insight into why “God with us” is such an important aspect of the Christian message. The story is called, “The Man and the Birds.” A man’s family left to go to church on Christmas Eve. The man was an agnostic who doubted the whole Christmas story about Jesus coming to earth as a man and being born in a manger. He passed on going to the Christmas Eve church service to spend a quiet evening at home. Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. The man went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. A few minutes later, he was startled by a thudding sound. Then another. And then another; sort of a thump or a thud. At first, he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They had been caught in the storm and in a desperate search for shelter, they had tried to fly through his large landscape window. Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. It could provide a warm shelter if he could direct the birds to go into it. Quickly, he put on a coat and goulashes and tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light. But the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in. So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow making a trail the yellow lighted, wide open door to the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs and continued to flop around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them. He tried “shooing” them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms. Instead, they scattered in every direction except into the warm lighted barn. Then he realized that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could let them know that they can trust me. That I’m not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them and confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led, or “shooed” because they feared him. “If only I could be a bird”, he thought to himself “and mingle with them and speak their language.” Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to the safe warm barn, but I would have to be one of them so they could see and hear, and understand.” At that moment the church bells began to ring out a Christmas carol. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. As He stood there listening to the bells, pealing the glad tidings of Christmas he fell to his knees in the snow. Suddenly it made so much sense. God became a man so He could show us the way to safety. He wanted to save us. He realized that was the true meaning of Christmas, “God with us.”
The Bible talks about God’s plan in II Corinthians 5:21, “For God made Christ, who had never sinned, to be the offering of sin for us, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” There are many people in the world this Christmas, who know the story of the baby Jesus being born in a manger, but are caught in the storms of life, never realizing that it is Jesus, who was born that night in Bethlehem, who is their only hope for safety from those storms. They have never heard that God, in His wonderful plan, came to earth as a man, lived among us, and provided a path to safety with Him. The Bible says in John 14:1, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. Jesus is the solution God provided to all of humanity, to demonstrate how much He cares for us. As we enjoy this Christmas season, let us faithfully share the truth of Christmas with all who need Jesus to find their way in the storms of life.
Merry Christmas and may God bless you and your family in the coming year.
Robert Andrews, Ph.D.