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Because of Bethlehem: Love Is Born, Hope Is Here

Because of Bethlehem: Love Is Born, Hope Is Here

by Max Lucado

Learn More | Meet Max Lucado


I Love Christmas

I love Christmas. Let the sleigh bells ring. Let the carolers sing. The more Santas the merrier. The more trees the better.

I love Christmas. The ho ho ho, the rooty toot toot, the thumpety, thump, thump, and the pa rum pa pum pum. The “Silent Night” and the sugarplums.

I don’t complain about the crowded shops. I don’t grumble at the jam-packed grocery store. The flight is full? The restaurant is packed? Well, it’s Christmas.

And I love Christmas.

Bring on Scrooge, Cousin Eddie, and the “official Red Ryder, carbine-action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle.” “You’ll shoot your eye out!”

The tinsel and the clatter and waking up “to see what was the matter.” Bing and his tunes. Macy’s balloons. Mistletoe kisses, Santa Claus wishes, and favorite dishes. Holiday snows, warm winter clothes, and Rudolph’s red nose.

I love Christmas.

I love it because somewhere someone will ask the Christmas questions: What’s the big deal about the baby in the manger? Who was he? What does his birth have to do with me? The questioner may be a child looking at a front-yard crèche. He may be a soldier stationed far from home. She may be a young mom who, for the first time, holds a child on Christmas Eve. The Christmas season prompts questions.

I love Christmas because somewhere someone will ask the Christmas questions: What’s the big deal about the baby in the manger?

I can remember the first time I asked those questions. I grew up in a small West Texas town, the son of a mechanic and a nurse. Never poor but certainly not affluent. My dad laid pipeline in the oil fields. Mom worked the three-to-eleven shift at the hospital. I followed my brother to elementary school every morning and played neighborhood ball in the afternoons.

Dad was in charge of dinner. My brother washed the dishes, and I was in charge of sweeping the floor. We boys took our baths by eight and were in bed by nine with permission to do one thing before turning out the lights. We could read.

The chest at the foot of our bed contained children’s books. Big books, each with a glossy finish and bright pictures. The three bears lived in the chest. So did the big, bad wolf and seven dwarfs and a monkey with a lunch pail, whose name I don’t recall. Somewhere in the chest, beneath the fairy tales, was a book about baby Jesus.

On the cover was a yellow-hayed manger. A star glowed above the stable. Joseph and a donkey, equally big eyed, stood nearby. Mary held a baby in her arms. She looked down at him, and he looked up at her, and I remember looking at them both.

My dad, a man of few words, had told my brother and me, “Boys, Christmas is about Christ.”

In one of those bedtime, book-time moments, somewhere between the fairy tales and the monkey with the lunch pail, I thought about what he had said. I began asking the Christmas questions. In one way or another, I’ve been asking them ever since.

I love the answers I have found.

Like this one: God knows what it is like to be a human. When I talk to him about deadlines or long lines or tough times, he understands. He’s been there. He’s been here. Because of Bethlehem, I have a friend in heaven.

Because of Bethlehem, I have a Savior in heaven. Christmas begins what Easter celebrates. The child in the cradle became the King on the cross. And because he did, there are no marks on my record. Just grace. His offer has no fine print. He didn’t tell me, “Clean up before you come in.” He offered, “Come in and I’ll clean you up.” It’s not my grip on him that matters but his grip on me. And his grip is sure.

Because of Bethlehem, I have a Savior in heaven. Christmas begins what Easter celebrates. The child in the cradle became the King on the cross.

So is his presence in my life. Christmas presents from Santa? That’s nice. But the perpetual presence of Christ? That’s life changing.

God is always near us. Always for us. Always in us. We may forget him, but God will never forget us. We are forever on his mind and in his plans. He called himself “‘Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’)” (Matt. 1:23).

Not just “God made us.”

Not just “God thinks of us.”

Not just “God above us."

But God with us. God where we are: at the office, in the kitchen, on the plane. He breathed our air and walked this earth. God . . . with . . . us!

We need this message more than ever. We live in anxious times. Terrorism is living up to its name—terror. Violence hangs over our planet like a dark cloud. Think about the images on the news: the senseless attacks, the bloodshed, the random acts of cruelty.

And, as if the malice were inadequate, there is the fear of another recession. We seem to teeter on the edge of bull markets going bear and the financial world going down. The shepherds stayed awake, watching their flocks by night. You’ve been sleeping with one eye open trying to keep watch over your stocks by night.

And there is more:

The job you can’t keep

The tumor you can’t diagnose

The marriage you can’t fix

The boss you can’t please

We can relate to the little boy who played the part of the angel in the Christmas story. He and his mother rehearsed his lines over and over: “It is I; don’t be afraid.” “It is I; don’t be afraid.”

Yet, when the Christmas pageant began, he walked onto the stage and saw the lights and audience and he froze. After an awkward silence, he finally said, “It is me and I’m scared.”

Are you scared? If so, may I suggest that you need a little Christmas? I don’t mean a dose of saccharine sentiment or Santa cheer or double-spiked eggnog. That’s not Christmas. Christmas, as my dad said, is about Christ. Christ’s name occupies six of the nine letters, for crying out loud. This isn’t Santa-mas, or shopping-mas, or reindeer-mas. This is Christ-mas. And Christ-mas is not Christ-mas unless or until you receive the message of Bethlehem.

God is always near us. Always for us. Always in us. We may forget him, but God will never forget us.

Have you? In the hurry and scurry of the season, have you taken time to receive the promise of the season?

  • God gets us.
  • God saves us.

God is always near us. By the way, Bethlehem was just the beginning. Jesus has promised a repeat performance. Bethlehem, Act 2. No silent night this time, however. The skies will open, trumpets will blast, and a new kingdom will begin. He will empty the tombs and melt the winter of death. He will press his thumb against the collective cheek of his children and wipe away all tears. “Begone, sorrow, sickness, wheelchairs, and cancer! Enough of you, screams of fear and nights of horror! Death, you die! Life, you reign!” The manger invites, even dares us to believe the best is yet to be. And it could all begin today.

But if it doesn’t, there is a reason. No day is accidental or incidental. No acts are random or wasted. Look at the Bethlehem birth. A king ordered a census. Joseph was forced to travel. Mary, as round as a ladybug, bounced on a donkey’s back. The hotel was full. The hour was late. The event was one big hassle. Yet, out of the hassle, hope was born.

It still is. I don’t like hassles. But I love Christmas because it reminds us how “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God” (Rom. 8:28 NLT).

The heart-shaping promises of Christmas. Long after the guests have left and the carolers have gone home and the lights have come down, these promises endure.

Perhaps you could use some Christmas this Christmas?

Let’s do what I did as a six-year-old, redheaded, flat-topped, freckle-faced boy. Let’s turn on the lamp, curl up in a comfortable spot, and look into the odd, wonderful story of Bethlehem.

May you find what I have found: a lifetime of hope.

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