This is the time of year when many celebrate a rather historic moment: the birth of a child. It is unusual because our culture typically shuns the embracing of a single religion in favour of the “many paths to God” philosophy. Perhaps it is the captivating allure of a small, innocent child that calms the belligerent tendencies in us. Or perhaps it is simply that as creatures of habit we feel compelled to embrace the unwavering traditions in which we were raised. Nevertheless, every year the story is told and it begins in Matthew chapter one:
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
Matthew 1:18, 22-23 (NIV)
The book of Matthew launches a new era in Biblical writings: The New Testament. The book initiates a new beginning of the Bible that builds on the foundation of the Old Testament and starts the ball rolling with a series of writings that together comprise a single narrative. What is remarkable about Matthew is that even though it begins with the Christmas story, the birth of Christ, there is something that takes place in the first few verses that is even more interesting: The genealogy of Jesus. Although I find reading genealogies a tad dry, the fact that God chose to begin with one illustrates a facet of His character that I find most intriguing.
As far back in Biblical history as one may choose to read, whether it be Psalms or Chronicles or even Genesis, God has consistently demonstrated a desire to knit His plans into our lives. God certainly does not need us, but He repeatedly includes us in His life. It is difficult to make any conclusion other than this: God wants to be a part of our lives.
Whether it was a man by the name of Joseph1, whose sole act of forgiveness and love saved his family and thereby the nation of Israel. Or a young shepherd boy by the name of David whose love for God so moved the Creator that David2 was known as, “A man after God’s own heart3.” Or even a prostitute by the name of Rahab4 who made a decision to take a stand for what she knew was right. Her lifestyle, scorned then just as much as it is now—even more, not being a barrier to what God had planned. All of these lived without ever meeting Jesus, yet share a similar place in history. They were ancestors of Jesus and, more importantly, their actions had a measurable effect on the course of history leading right up to the birth of Jesus Himself.
Jesus’ birth set a series of events in motion that ultimately fulfilled a pivotal element of God’s plan. Jesus created a way for us as individuals to have a relationship with God. No religious motions. No repetitive prayers. A direct connection that allows us to discover how great God is and how we have been knit into the fabric of His life (His plan).
From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.
Acts 17:26-27 (NIV)
This passage might not seem to meld with the theme of Christmas, but what it tells us is that God set in place where we would live and He did this so we would have the greatest opportunity of encountering Him. It would be like some great force dropping you on a highway in such a way that you would be as close as possible to the exit you need to take. The only choice you have to make is to take that exit. In much the same way Jesus made a choice to walk out God’s plan, we must also make that same decision.
So why are we unable to escape the fascination that is Christmas? Is it the tradition of a newborn Child? The start of a great new book series authored by God? Or is it the beginning of a realization that God has knit all of us into a tremendous sequence of events?
There is an ineffable quality within people that draws us to the spiritual unknown. It is the same quality that forces us to ask the question, “Why am I here?” The answer is surprisingly simple. You are here for a time such as this. In much the same way Jesus was born to fulfil His God-assigned purpose, you are here to fulfil yours. The only real question that needs to be answered is, “Are you ready?”