The Mississippi Baptist Foundation  |  est. 1943  |  Psalm 24:1
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      About the time that I was graduating from high school, the band Kool and the Gang released the song “Celebration” that was wildly popular in the United States and around the world. The lyrics include phrases such as “There’s a party goin’ on right here, a celebration to last throughout the years” and “Celebrate good times, come on!”      
      Please be assured that I certainly do not believe that the angel that proclaimed “good news of great joy” to the shepherds bore the name “Kool” or that the multitude of the heavenly hosts who declared “peace on earth, good will to men” comprised “the gang.” I do recognize, however, that the birth announcement of “a Savior…Christ, the Lord” launched a celebration that has continued for over 2,000 years…a celebration to which some shepherds received a personal invitation and one to which some magi were guided by divine GPS…a celebration to which people throughout history and all of us today are invited to participate!

      Why do we celebrate? What “reason for the season” is the focus of our attention, affection, and allegiance? Our celebration includes celebrating the…

      Mystery and Majesty of God highlighted through a heavenly message received by Mary that confused her and left her troubled. Months prior to the angel’s announcement to the shepherds, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and offered her the abridged version of what was about to take place in and through her young life. God’s choice of a teen-aged girl to bring forth a child was beyond Mary’s comprehension…especially since she was a virgin. When she reminded Gabriel of this rather important detail, she learned that God’s plan included her conception of a child through the Holy Spirit and the fact that this child…this holy one…would be called the Son of God. Gabriel then continued with an additional “FYI” that Mary’s old and barren relative Elizabeth was six months pregnant herself.  (Luke 1:26ff).     
      I suppose that Mary could have shrugged her shoulders with a youthful “whatever” kind of response. Or, she might have responded with a more seasoned “God works in mysterious ways” in an attempt to explain the unexplainable and to comprehend the incomprehensible. I tend to believe, however, that Mary recognized “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8) and that “the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25).
      Against such a backdrop, Mary responded “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38). Not to be flippant or trite, but the “apple didn’t fall far from the tree.” Why? Because the One who came not to be served but to serve (Matthew 20:28) and who took on the very nature of a servant (Philippians 2) was born of a virgin…a young mother who humbly and readily identified herself as “the Lord’s servant.” Why? Because the One who said “Everything is possible with you…Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done” (Mark 14:36) had a father who “did what the angel of the Lord commanded him” (Matthew 1:24) and a mother who “believed that what the Lord said to her would be accomplished” (Luke 1:45).       
      God works in ways that may not be understood to accomplish purposes that can only be classified as “God-sized.” Although Mary could not comprehend fully or decipher completely everything that her future held, she trusted God to hold and undergird her future…a future in which he entrusted her to be the mother of the Son of God…Jesus…Savior…Christ, the Lord.  Mary treasured all of these things…the mystery and majesty of God exhibited through the birth of Jesus…and pondered them in her heart. As we celebrate Jesus’ birth this year, may we do likewise!  
      Essence and Presence of God with the heavenly multitude that proclaimed “Glory to God in the highest!” In their devotional book entitled “Christmas Presence: A 41-Day Advent Journey,” Mississippi pastors Ray Cummings and Scott Hanberry reference Rick Warren who submitted that “The glory of God is the essence of His nature; the weight of His importance; the radiance of His splendor; the demonstration of His power; the atmosphere of His presence.” John wrote “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We beheld his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (1:14).
      As an elementary-aged boy, I had the opportunity to sing in church one Sunday with two other boys about my age. I don’t recall that we had volunteered for this experience. Likely the “opportunity” was a scheme to keep us from being a distraction in our Young Musicians choir. Nonetheless, our youthful trio led in worship through singing “Heaven Came Down.” The first line of the refrain is “Heaven came down and glory filled my soul.” While those in attendance likely felt that heaven was about to come crashing through the ceiling of the sanctuary during our loud, confident, and off-key rendition, words to the song depict the essence of God (his glory) as revealed through his personal presence on earth. Through Jesus’ birth, we are invited to celebrate the glory of Immanuel, God with us.
      Humanity and Humility of God as “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14a) and was “wrapped…in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger” (Luke 2:7). Later, Jesus’ humanity and humility again were evident as he came “gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9) into Jerusalem where he suffered and bled and died. As prophesied by Isaiah, this baby in a manger would become “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (53:3).     
      Reflecting on the humanity and humility of God as seen in Jesus, Paul wrote to the church at Philippi that Jesus was “made in human likeness” and “found in appearance as a man” (2:7-8). Paul wrote further how Jesus “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (and) “humbled himself and became obedient to death…even death on a cross” (vv.7-8). As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we must be mindful that the “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” presented by the angel was actually the public introduction of “the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world” (John 1:29)…the One who came to earth as a demonstration of God’s love for us and who became “an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4).


Dear Heavenly Father, May my Christmas celebration be much more than a decorated tree, strings of lights, and presents wrapped in paper and bows. Rather, may I celebrate heaven coming to earth in the form of a baby…your son…Jesus. Like Mary, may I respond in faith and humble obedience to you and your instructions even when I don’t understand. May your essence fill my life in such a way that others see your presence in my life and are drawn to you through me. May I be intentional about inviting others to join the celebration that has lasted throughout the years. Amen.