My family spends a great deal of time on the Gulf enjoying the emerald waters and sugar sand beaches. Like many of you, I grew up making that drive south, passing through small towns and keeping an eye out for the first palm tree. The beach was like entering a different world, and standing knee-deep before continuous waves as they crashed against my body was both frightening and exhilarating. I felt but a speck, yet more alive than ever. I bet you’ve felt something similar there.
As the decades have passed, I don’t feel the same as I once did. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy it, and a good sunset can leave me speechless, but often I forget just how special it is to stand on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. That is until I see a family visiting from some land-locked state up I-65. I see that same paradise in their eyes that I saw as a kid. I nod my head in confirmation watching smiles stretch wide across their faces as they charge toward the warm Gulf waters to get lost in playing in the waves. “YES,” I think, “You see it’s true beauty.”
Christmas is like this too. The majesty of our Savior’s birth gets worn down like a shell in the surf. Jesus is still there, but the original texture has been smoothed over by commercialization.
I don’t know if any of us can stand in awe like the shepherds did the night the angels first appeared, saying, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). Or when the wise men arrived underneath the star they had been following and went “into the house, where they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him” (Matt 2:11). Even though we weren’t present then, being awe-struck by Jesus is still the correct response today.
How, then, can we see the true beauty of Christmas?
Look into the eyes and faces of those who encountered him. The shepherds, the wise men, even Simeon, who took Jesus in his arms at the Temple and blessed God, saying,
“My eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32).
Later, John, Jesus’ disciple, would pen these words, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
The Scriptures are full of awe-struck encounters with Jesus. If you want December 25th to have meaning, open the Word and remember the true beauty of Christmas.