The old stories were familiar favorites. The scriptures that when with each story were too. The scriptures generally referred to the miraculous birth, the angels declaring hallelujah, the wise men following the star.
What I read this year chronicled (four times throughout the four gospels) not only the birth but the life, actions, words, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Christmas is the time we celebrate His birth. But what is the point of that? Ultimately, we are celebrating His life. Reading the four gospels and the book of Acts has reminded me what His life and Christmas is really about. A higher way of living, the opportunity to have second chances (and third and fourth and fifth and six thousandth chances), infinite, unconditional love, and the overcoming of physical death.
My favorite story (right now) is found in John 8:3-11. A woman had been found committing adultery and the Pharisees (a political group) brought her before Jesus. "Now Moses in the law has commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?"
Christ and the woman taken in adultery by Guercino
As always, the Pharisees were trying to trip up Jesus - to Him to confuse his message of justice and forgiveness.
With such wisdom, Jesus sat quietly, writing in the dust with his finger. When they pressed him again for an answer, He simply stated, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."
One by one, the crowd dispersed. When Jesus looked up again, He saw that He was alone with the woman. "Woman, where are thine accusers?"
She replied, "No man, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more."
I love this story. I love that mercy was exercise while the law was upheld. I love that Jesus did not "rescue" the woman, but rather awoke empathy in others and spread the message of mercy. And Jesus so easily forgave such a grave act.
I love everything about this story. To me, it exemplifies my Savior.
My favorite line of one of my favorite Christmas carols comes from O Holy Night:
"Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till he appeared and the soul felt its worth."
I doubt the adulterous woman really knew her worth before her encounter with Christ. None of us really do. His birth isn't the miracle. He is. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It is His life that I celebrate today and tomorrow. It is so much more than a miraculous birth in a tiny manger. It is about hope and infinite chances and pure love. He lives today. His message of love, forgiveness, peace, and hope has never changed.
Have a beautiful Christmas.