The simple story of the season

By Brenda Kay Zylstra

In some ways the Christmas story is as simple as a nativity scene. A newborn child, pure and helpless, cradled in the arms of a young mother. A proud father keeps watch as guests from afar come to worship the King. The scene is frozen in time, the familiar figures hushed in awe and amazement as an otherworldly light radiates from the perfect infant.

So simply, the long-awaited Savior arrives.

I wonder whether it has become too simple for us, for those who believe and those who do not. A bundle of names and images and stock phrases that becomes nearly impossible to avoid at Christmastime, yet is rarely properly addressed. We have heard the account of Jesus, Mary and Joseph so many times that the meaning has dulled, the event has become commonplace and it no longer strikes us as surprising or incredible. The Creator of the universe sending His only Son, not with bolts of lightning or magnificent explosions, but as a helpless infant born to insignificant parents in a dank and musty stable. Unimpressed, we nod our heads, dazzled instead by gaudy displays of holiday excess and excited only at the prospect of saving 50 percent at department store blowout sales.

Suspend cynicism for a moment and dwell on the enormity of that hallowed night. Even if you regard the Bible merely as another storybook, try to comprehend for an instant how beautiful a story it is.

A chosen people, set apart by God. Hundreds of years of prophecy concerning the coming Messiah. No time frame given to the people, just a promise of deliverance and the requirement of faith.

Oppressed by the Romans, the Jewish people cried out for rescue and expected a military power that would throw off the crushing burden of Roman rule and usher in an era of Jewish political might.

Instead, the Father sent a child, his child.

The long-awaited Savior arrived.

And somehow He was both fully divine yet fully human, an inexplicable mystery, yet the only way to satisfy God’s demand for both justice and mercy. For who but God could live a sinless life and who but a sinless man could take on the sins of all others. Because He did not have to account for Himself, He was able to account for all others.

And though the cross was the culmination of Christ’s life and the keystone of Christianity, His life was incredible. Consider what it means to live a sinless life. Never telling a lie. Never wishing another person ill. Always content. Always obedient, to the point of willingly going to His humiliating and agonizing death.

Hebrews speaks of how Christ “has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.” A sinless life I cannot imagine, but I can take comfort in knowing that this is a God who has felt loneliness and heartache and sorrow. A God who wept. A God who grieves not just for me, but with me.

There’s something peculiarly sweet about a God who elects to live life as we do, to face all we have to face. Someone who has stood up to every trial and temptation and never flinched, never wavered. Perfect obedience through the channel of perfect love.

Christ not only lived perfectly, but He used His time to minister to the needs of everyone He met. He broke down all societal boundaries, refusing to allow race, gender, age, wealth or status to bias His surpassing love. His model of recognizing differences and addressing them but treating all with the same respect, love and charity is applicable to every relationship you have. All have sinned but all are loved. He fed the hungry, He touched the sick, He treated women with respect, He called the little children to him, He cared for spiritual needs as well as physical. This was a man not bringing warfare and domination, but peace and compassion and a deep, relentless, all-encompassing love.

I write this column because the incarnation is an incredible story, because whether or not you find this to be true, it matters. If you disagree, I will tell the story anyway, because I hope we can at least agree that we’re all honestly searching for Truth, and I believe I have found it.

Fall on your knees. Oh hear the angels’ voices. Oh night divine. Oh night when Christ was born.