I love the story, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. For those of you who have never read the book or watched the movie, it’s about a Sunday School class at a small church preparing for their annual production of the Nativity story. Each year it’s the same. The same script, same cast, same story. Nothing grand, nothing special. But this year, that’s all about to change. All because of the Herdmans. You see, the Herdmans were the town outcasts. An unruly family with six equally unruly children. And these kids get the leads —Mary, Joseph, the angels, the shepherds. How can six kids who smoke, steal, lie and bully on a daily basis possibly share the Good News of Christ? It’s unthinkable! It’s disastrous! But…and this is the best part…they’re exactly who Jesus came for.
Throughout Scripture we read of God using broken and sinful men and women to carry out His plan. Look at Noah, Jacob, Jonah and David. Each one of them messed up, sometimes big. But God, in His great mercy, still loved them, had a plan for them, and showed immeasurable grace to them.
This is the God we celebrate at Christmas. The All-Powerful who came powerless. The Mighty King who came as a servant. The Ever-Lasting Father who came as a mortal babe. And He did it all for us.
Yes, this is the Christmas story. God, holy and righteous, loved the world: a sinful world that could never measure up to the standard of obedience God had set. A world distant and apart from Him. A world that repeatedly forgot Him, disobeyed Him, and turned their backs on Him. And yet, out of love, God sent His Son to be born as a baby. A baby born to die. A baby born to save.
Did you catch that? “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” So often, as we celebrate Christmas, we forget that the cross is a part of the story. The very reason He came.
The whole purpose of Jesus’ birth was so He could die, for you and for me. This is the wonder, the Good News of Christmas. That a Holy, Righteous and Just God would come to earth in human form to die a horrific death on a cross, so unrighteous, sinful me could live with Him forever. Praise God! And I pray, that for those of us who have grown up in the church, hearing the same story year after year, we would see with fresh eyes and hear with fresh ears the wonder and awe of this amazing gift.
The Herdman children saw it, heard it. And the crowd that came to see disaster ensue, got far more than they bargained for. They saw hard hearts softened. The unloved loved for maybe the first time. And lives changed and transformed as these wild and undisciplined kids discovered the true meaning of Christmas: A God who pursues, a God who gives purpose, a God who loves for all of eternity.
Love came down that long-ago Christmas. Immanuel, God with us, came to the cross. And all so we could be with Him forever.