It's a busy season. Our preoccupation with the preparation of the perfect present and the packaging, posting, parties, poinsettia plants, pies, puddings, poultry, and not forgetting the prosecco will soon be over but for what purpose? Will it be to remember the Prince of Peace, to gather as a family to evoke memories of Christmases past, or just a few days off work, or perhaps all of these? But what is the "Reason for the Season?" 

 

The Christmas story of baby Jesus, the Shepherds, and the Wise Men just arriving on time as though by a well-rehearsed curtain call is far from reality. But too often it is what is portrayed in school and church pageants that fixes the events of the Christmas story into our memories. What we have done over the years is to mix two different Christmas stories into one story. Yes, the Shepherds did come to the manger, but we are unsure if the Wise Men did, because Matthew in his gospel talks about the Maji visiting a house and not a stable! But does all of this matter? The Shepherds did visit Jesus as did the Wise Men. These events mattered when the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were written because they set the tone and emphasis of what they later wrote. It is only in these two gospels where we find our Christmas stories; in Luke, we only have the Shepherds and in Matthew, we only have the Wise Men. 

 

But why do we have two different stories of the birth of Jesus when both stories at their heart are about having a new start in life and therefore a change in direction in how we live and interact with one another and with God. 

 

Matthew, who was a Jew, saw his mission in life as bringing the good news of the love of God, through Jesus, to the Jewish people. Luke, who was not a Jew, saw his mission differently. His gospel was to a universal audience with an emphasis on the rejected and not those who were thought of as God's chosen. For Luke, the shepherds represented the rejected whereas Matthew was looking for a future King, "Where is he born to be King of the Jews?" The years have passed, and the Christmas story has been condensed into a well-rehearsed pageant. But at the heart of both the Gospel of Matthew and Luke is an eternal truth that is best expressed by the words from a hymn by Charles Wesley, "Our God contracted to a span, Incomprehensibly made man." 

 

Enjoy your Christmas in your giving and receiving, remembering there is a “Reason for the Season.”