Contrasting the splendors of Heaven, squalors of earth
This rural scribbler from the Straight Shore so desires to script a few lines regarding Christmas.
“Christmas comes but once a year, and when it comes it brings good cheer,” so says the old rhyme, and naturally everyone tries at Christmas time to enjoy as much good cheer as he can.
But, not everyone realizes the true and extraordinary story that lies behind Christmas. We may have a vague impression at the back of our minds of shepherds and angels and a star — like some kind of half-remembered fairy-tale of childhood, and with the passing of the years it has all become very beautiful and romantic.
Yet in reality, although it is the most wonderful fact of history, it was not at the time particularly beautiful. For when God decided to enter the stream of human history by becoming a human baby He did not choose, as we might expect, to be born in a rich and privileged home. There were no priorities or special advantages for Him. He choose as mother a peasant woman in humble circumstances.
There was no publicity and no fuss when he slipped like this in human life. It happened in a third-world country some two thousand years ago (thereabouts) and very few people knew what was happening. It may look beautiful now on a Christmas card or a religious picture, but there is not really anything lovely in hunting desperately for lodging when your wife is pregnant and near her time. There is nothing romantic on having your first baby in a draughty barn because no one in the inn next door will give up their bed for you, and it isn’t really much fun to put your baby to sleep in the cattle’s feeding-trough because there is nowhere else except the dirty floor.
The historic fact, shorn of romance and decoration, was rather ugly and squalid. It is not a pleasant thing for a mother to feel that the world has no room for her baby.
How it must have cheered Mary when the rough shepherds came busting in, all breathless and excited, saying that they had a vision of angels up there on the hillside and had been told that this little fellow was really God, and might they please kneel and give Him their presents! How the people snoring comfortably in the inn next store would have laughed to have seen the sight of those country bumpkins kneeling on the stable floor.
Yet that is how God made his entrance. If you can imagine the contrast between the splendors of Heaven and the squalors of earth you cannot help admiring and loving a character who accepted no special advantages or defenses, who lived life on the same terms as His creatures. That is the real good cheer of Christmas: that God is not an aloof invisible power, but one who actually took the risk of entering His own world.
Cutting out the sentimentality, the decorations and commercial racket of Christmas, the historic fact that what we are celebrating is simple, but quite unforgettable once it gets under your skin. God became one of us that we might find the way to become something like Him.