(image lifted from https://www.urbanvillagechurch.org)
There’s a Christian song which I most fondly listen to on Christmas, though many don’t consider it a Christmas song. It starts with these lyrics,
“As little children we would dream of Christmas morn
Of all the gifts and toys we knew we’d find
But we never realized a baby born one blessed night
Gave us the greatest gift of our lives.”
Of course, everybody believes Christmas is celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. But the way we are celebrating it, today, in this day and ages, sometimes makes me wonder if we are.
We go back 2,000 years and ask, how did Christ himself celebrate Christmas? Even the date may not be even precise, since many historians believe Jesus’ birth was most probably around October. And Jesus belong to that small group of people who are celebrating Christmas on their own birthdays, less than 1/3 of one percent! And there was even no Christmas then, as there were no Christians yet, and the only people who knew Jesus were his parents and siblings and their neighbors who lived in Nazareth.
Thirty long years … that was the time Jesus grew from infancy to childhood to early manhood, and finally to adulthood until He started his ministry. The son of a carpenter, He probably learned the craft early and become one himself as was the tradition in those days. Did He celebrate his birthday each year the same way as we do? Probably not – most Jews don’t, especially at that time, because celebrating birthdays came from pagan traditions. Even Christians in the olden times didn’t also, although everybody does now, including contemporary Jews. But as a Jew, born from the tribe of Judah, Jesus would have celebrated special events and those with significant personal significance in the Jewish calendar. That’s why Jesus was brought to the temple when He was 12.
And that was the only time the Scriptures mentioned anything about Jesus over those 30 long years, placing emphasis on the incident itself, when He, in accordance with Jewish law, prescribed in the Old Testament itself, prepares Himself to become a “son of the law,” or “a son of the Commandment.” Jesus grew up a Jew, and was brought up by His parents in accordance with the Laws of Moses and the Old testament. God has decreed that stories of His life be not detailed in the Scriptures but it is most significant that it did emphasize, rather plainly that “Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” As a carpenter’s son and as a carpenter himself. For 30 long years.
What probably was He thinking in those 30 years? There was no Christmas then, and Jews don’t celebrate birthdays, except the compulsory observance of significant dates under the Jewish calendar. As man, He grew a normal life, but as God, He knew what lies ahead of those 30 long years. I believe Jesus is the only man in the whole world and throughout the entire human history, who knew, at the time of His birth, what lies ahead. Jesus knew that the only reason He was born as a baby in Bethlehem is so that He can die on the Cross on Calvary, 33 years hence. I can’t even imagine the weight of the pain a Man can carry over 30 odd years. Each day in each season in each year will bring you nearer to the ultimate sacrifice of death.
The song continues with the lyrics,
“As the years went by we learned more about gifts
The giving of ourselves and what that means
On a dark and cloudy day a man hung crying in the rain
All because of love … All because of love.”
A friend actually asked me once, why during Holy Week, I write about Christmas, and during Christmas, I tend to write about Holy Week and the Resurrection. Because Christmas and the Resurrection are part of the same story. If ever Jesus celebrated or thought of anything during his birthday, or of Christmas, if at all, it is to count one year less to His death on the cross in Calvary. To give the greatest gift!
“We are the reason that He gave His life
We were the reason that He suffered and died
To a world that was lost He gave all He could give
To show us the reason to live.”
Christmas is a season of hope and thanksgiving. As we celebrate it, let’s for a moment see it through the eyes of the carpenter’s son. Jesus gave us the greatest gift of our lives. Thank Him. May the Lord bless you and keep you.