A story worth repeating

Published 1:31 pm Friday, December 24, 2010

By Rev. Stewart McCarter

As long as I can remember, there has been a tradition with my family.

Every Christmas Eve, we sat down, and we patiently waited. Before ever a gift was opened, there was a story to be read. We read it every year. I cannot remember not hearing or reading that story on a Christmas Eve. This tradition is so strong in our family that my niece, stranded by the airlines in Africa two years ago, read this story to her family through Skype on Christmas Eve.

Rev. Stewart McCarter

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What story could mean this much? It is the story of Christmas found in Luke 2 in the Bible. This is the story of Christmas. It is the story that contains all other stories in the world.

Everything in this world, and in the world to come, is affected by that story. It is of utmost importance to every soul that lives. It is the only hope of mankind, and the most non-religious, misunderstood, misused and misinterpreted story in the history of mankind.

Let us leave it unaltered and ask, what does Luke 2 tell us happened, and what does it means to me today?

The first part is easy to state, at least on the surface. An angel visited a young virgin named Mary and told her she would find herself pregnant with a baby put there by the power of God. Her fiancé was visited by an angel and was told not to be afraid to marry Mary, that indeed she was pregnant with the Son of God.

In Luke 2, we find the story of their travel to Bethlehem, since they were both descendants of King David, to register to be taxed. While there, Mary went into labor and gave birth to a baby boy that Joseph obediently named Jesus as instructed by the angel.

That baby would grow up to be called many other things. Some of those things were good, like Lamb of God, Son of God, Messiah, Christ, Son of Man. Some of them were bad, like blasphemer, because He claimed to be the Son of God.

For that claim, the religious people of His day used the tyrannical government of His day to put Him on a cross and kill him.

To the second question, what does it mean to me today, there are many answers. First, it means God forgives my sins because of that cross. Jesus paid the price demanded by God for sin — death.

If I accept His payment, then Christmas comes to mean even more. It means that the baby born in a manger is now born in my life. He lives with me, and the life I live here on earth must be lived as if it were He living it through me.

Christmas is to be about others. Just as God emptied Himself to put on man, so I must empty myself to put on God. God came to “seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) It means we put ourselves aside to reach out to our fellow travelers on Earth to help, to heal, to hold, and to herald the One who can make the wrong right, the broken new, the hungry full, the sick healthy, and the fearful bold.

We reach out in love, just as He did, to make sure our fellow men are served with the love of God and, as I learned from Luke 2 while I was a boy, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased.”

The Rev. Stewart McCarter is pastor of Southside Baptist Church on Carolina Road in Suffolk.