What is it that gets you excited about Christmas? Young children opening presents? Giving presents? Getting presents? (It’s OK to admit it.) The family reunion at grandma’s house? The travel? (You’re in a special class if this gets you excited.)
It didn’t take much to get me excited when I was a kid. It always started for me when the Sears Wish Book would show up. Some of you will remember those. It was the Google search engine of the day for kids who wanted to find just the right toy for Christmas.
I was a child of the 60’s and I lived for comic books: Superman, Batman, Spiderman. When I was six-years-old Ideal Toy Company put out its answer to the G.I. Joe action figure: Captain Action. He was great on his own but you could also get costumes to make him into all the other superheroes. I had to have it. So I circled it in the book. I wrote Santa.
And then I waited. I imagined waking up Christmas morning and finding Captain Action under the tree. Together he and I would save the world. And if the imaginary situation called for it, I could put him in his Batman costume and the Dark Knight would bring light to the dark nights in Memphis, Texas.
All the days leading up to Christmas Day you thought about what it would be like to have this toy. Going to bed on Christmas Eve was torturous. You’d try sleeping on your back, then one side, then the other. And you knew if you didn’t go to sleep Santa would not come. Sneaking some Eggnog helped.
It didn’t take much to get excited about Christmas when we were young, did it? But something happens as we get older. The problem is your world has changed. Demands of work. Long lines. Deadlines. Receding hair lines. Expanding waistlines. Bills to be paid. Once we have some money smaller gifts aren’t such a big deal, are they? You can go out and buy those yourself. And when you have pretty much all your basic needs in our First World living, what would ever cause you to get excited?
Imagine not only having your basic needs but having everything you could possibly need. The angels did. And yet they got excited about the birth of Christ. Angels are everywhere in the story of Jesus’ birth. Joseph encountered angels three times. Zechariah once. Mary once. Shepherds once.
Actually twice. The first angel announced the birth of “…a Savior, Christ the Lord.” Then the sky exploded with “a multitude of the heavenly host.” What got angels excited about the birth of Jesus?
The prevailing idea of angels in the first century was that they were like a tired, beleaguered army. Their mission to help watch the earth was frustrated by Satan and his minions. Mankind was helpless to help itself. The angels needed reinforcement.
And reinforcement came in the form of a child born in a manger. When God sent help he did not send another angel. He sent the Lord of all angels. The Lord of all.
That’s what got the angels excited. When Luke describes the multitude of them as the “heavenly host,” the word for “host” means “army, troops.” The angels are ready for battle. Their leader had come to save.
War leaves causalities in its wake. You may be one of them. Someone did something to you. Said something to you. You’ve done things and said things you regret that have shaped your life. The world is harsh. And you too are tired and beleaguered. You’re tired of fighting alone.
You don’t have to any longer. “For unto you … has been born a Savior. Christ the Lord.” The Lord of all has come to you and you need only come to him. And so, when a Savior was born…that was all the Christmas the angels needed. And it’s all the Christmas you need too.
I woke up that Christmas morning and Captain Action had come. In my imagination he and I saved the world. In my adulthood Christ has come and saved my world. He can save yours too. Because of Bethlehem you have a Savior. Christ the Lord.
That’s something to get excited about.
Question: What gets you excited about the real story of Christmas?