"The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!"
(Luke 2:11, NLT)
The Best Christmas Gift
By Pastor Wally Odum
- Christmas means different things to different people. For many there’s some confusion about its significance. From shopping to Christmas cards, it’s easy to get lost in the details. I heard of a woman who went to the Post Office to buy stamps for her Christmas cards.
She said to the clerk, “May I have 50 Christmas stamps?” The clerk asked, “What denomination?” The woman responded in alarm, “God help us. Has it come to this? Give me 6 Catholic, 12 Presbyterian, 10 Lutheran and 22 Baptists.”
Linda Stafford said that one of the proudest moments of her life was when her young son had the role of a wise man in the Christmas play. When it was his turn to speak his line, he stepped forward wearing a bathrobe and a paper crown and announced, “We are three wise men, and we are bringing gifts of gold, common sense and fur.”
Most of us have Christmas memories. My memories of Christmas are filled with all the trappings I love—the lights, the decorated trees, and the carols. I remember the chemistry set my parents gave me, and I remember all of us standing outside the house in the cold that Christmas morning because the directions for creating a “Rotten Egg Smell” worked.
Gwen and I will never forget the one trip we made to the Holy Land. On one of the evenings we went to a field outside Bethlehem. There, where the shepherds first heard the Christmas message, we listened as the story of Jesus’ birth was retold. It was impossible to look up at the sky that night and not imagine what it would have been like for those shepherds who saw the evening sky light up with angels declaring that a Savior had been born.
Luke recorded the message that changed the world:
“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.’ ” (Luke 2:10-11)
“Good news of great joy…for all the people.” What an interesting way to describe Jesus’ birth. In many cases what is good news for one group of people is not good news for others. The next time you watch a football game, notice the different reactions of the fans. Those supporting the winning team are celebrating the news of victory, but those who cheered for the losing team are despondent. Christmas is not like that. It is good news for all the people.
Religious people of Jesus’ day had a list of undesirable occupations. Shepherds were on that list. Religious leaders regarded shepherds with contempt and considered them ceremonially unclean. They couldn’t keep rules like washing their hands before they ate. Regarded as outcasts by their society, the angels went out of their way to let these isolated and misunderstood shepherds know that a Savior had been born.
Later, Simeon would discover the infant Jesus in the Temple. Simeon never missed church and had a vital relationship with God. The good news of Christmas is for all the people. Whether we grew up attending church or have never been inside church doors, the good news is that Jesus has come to be a Savior for each of us. And we all need a Savior.
No matter what our background may be, when we come to Christmas, something about it makes us stop and think. An old pioneer traveled westward across the great plains until he came to an abrupt halt at the edge of the Grand Canyon.
He gawked at the sight before him: a vast gorge one mile down, 18 miles across, and more than a hundred miles long! He gasped, “Something musta happened here!” A visitor to our world at Christmas time, seeing the lights, the decorations, the trees, the parades, the festivities, and the religious services, would also probably say, “Something musta happened here!”
Something did happen. God came to our world on the first Christmas. He came for shepherds, wise men, worshipers and sinners. We couldn’t reach Him, so God came to us. That is good news for everyone.
I read about a Catholic church in San Francisco. The priest went outside the church on December 26 and noticed that the “infant Jesus” was missing from the manger scene. While he was pondering what might have happened to baby Jesus, a little boy came down the sidewalk pulling a red wagon. In the wagon was the baby from the Nativity scene. The small boy explained, “A week before Christmas I prayed to the little Lord Jesus and I told him if he would send me a red wagon for Christmas, I’d give him a ride.”
On reflection I am reminded that every good gift I have ever gotten can be traced back to the little Lord Jesus who came long ago. I can’t give Him a ride in my red wagon, but I can pause during this holiday season and say, “Thank you for Christmas, Jesus. You’re the best gift anyone could ever receive.”
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Pastor Wally Odum is the pastor of OBX Nation in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. He has been in ministry for thirty years and loves to share the Gospel. He is passionate about encouraging others to grow in God through sharing scriptures, stories, and personal experiences.
© OBX Nation, Wally Odum. Used with permission.
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