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For years I didn’t celebrate His birth, even though He had saved my life. When I was a young child, Jesus didn’t have a place in our family celebrations. Christmas centered on presents and parties, food and fun. Little did we know that we were missing a chance to celebrate the greatest birth this world has ever known!

But then Jesus came into our hearts and into our home. They say a baby changes everything—and He did! The ornament on the top of our Christmas tree was replaced with an angel. The family stereo played less of “Frosty the Snowman” and more of “Away in a Manger.” And added to the gifts under the tree was Dad’s reading of Luke 2 about the greatest Gift ever given. Our hearts were touched. We were in awe of such a miracle—such love. And we felt a sense of sadness that so many years had gone by when we hadn’t put Christ in Christmas.

Many years have passed since my first Christmas as a new Christian. And celebrating Jesus’ birth has never lost its appeal. Instead, I think it means more to me each year. His birth means that I have worth, that I have victory over sin, that I have His empathy, and that I have His promise of heaven. His birth can mean the same to you too. Here’s how.

Jesus thinks we're valuable

“I need to talk to you—privately,” she told me quietly. I was speaking at a women’s retreat, and the only private place we could find was the kitchen. With the door closed, Paige* began to pour out her pain.

The summer after her freshman year of college she discovered she was pregnant from a one-night stand. Her mom took her to an abortion clinic, insisting that this was the only option. Paige complied. But moments after the procedure was finished, she began to feel overwhelming guilt and shame.

“I started drinking, smoking pot, and freely having sex—anything to hide the pain,” she told me. “I didn’t feel worthy of being loved. I felt God hated me. And I hated myself.”

That first Christmas after the abortion brought Paige gut-wrenching emotions. Her baby would have been nine months old. “As I looked at the tree decorations my siblings and I made while growing up, I thought to myself, I’ ll never have these from my baby. When I went to the store and saw ornaments that said ‘Baby’s 1st Christmas,’ the pain grew even more intense.”

When she finished her story, she asked me what God thought of her— and I told her the truth. “He loves you,” I said. We continued to talk, and after years of shame, she finally began to feel valued.

What is it that makes you feel unvalued? Your job status? Your looks? A too-small house or an old car? Childhood memories of being bullied or abused? Or, like Paige, a serious mistake you made—maybe even a sinful one?

The good news this Christmas is that Jesus saw great value in you and me—great enough to leave heaven behind and be born on this sad earth. And God the Father also values us more than we can comprehend: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

You don’t feel worthy of such a priceless gift? That’s OK—neither do I. No one ever can be worthy. But that’s how valuable we are.

Jesus gives us victory over sin

Brad had been a slave to hatred for years. Because his father had been an abusive alcoholic, every single family Christmas had been ruined. Even years later, after his father died, Brad still had not forgiven him.

Then one Christmas Brad came to the church my dad was pastoring. There he heard the Christmas story like he’d never heard it before. The love and sacrifice of Jesus touched his hard, resentful heart. After the service, he approached Dad and said, “If Jesus did all that for me just so He could live and die for my sins, I can forgive my father for all the terrible things he did to me and our family through the years.” The birth of a Baby gave Brad the gift of forgiving. While all of Brad’s former Christmases had been ruined by abuse, that Christmas he gained the victory over hatred.

Jesus understands what it’s like to struggle against sin, because although He was God, He was born human. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” So He doesn’t shame us when we’re tempted—or even when we succumb. His life is proof that we can have victory over sin, just as Brad did.

Jesus understands our pain

Marie was a new widow, barely making ends meet and trying to hold her family together. Life had been tough since her husband died unexpectedly. There were bills to pay, a child to put through college, a van to fix, a large yard to maintain . . . the list went on.

“I don’t feel like celebrating the holidays,” she told me. “I just don’t have any desire.” Maybe you know how she felt. Perhaps you’ve lost your job or your home as a result of the economy. Maybe your family is far away and you can’t spend Christmas together. Perhaps you’ll be missing a family member who is in the hospital or at a care facility. Or, like Marie, maybe someone you loved has died. It can be heart wrenching to see an empty place at the table, to hear a song that brings back memories, or to take a family picture that will always remind you someone is missing. You just don’t feel like celebrating.

You may feel alone in your grief, but you’re not. Because Jesus was born into a sinful, hurting world, He experienced grief Himself. John 11 tells the story of Jesus’ friend, Lazarus, who died. He’d been dead for four days when Jesus arrived. When Jesus saw family and friends mourning, He was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (verse 33). And when He reached the tomb, “Jesus wept” (verse 35). He knew that in a few short minutes He was going to call in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” (verse 43). Yet He still wept. Jesus does understand our pain.

Jesus promises to come a second time

It was the night before Christmas Eve, and I was doing some last-minute shopping at a busy department store. In pain I moved slowly through the crowd, doing my best with a knee problem I’ve been told is permanent. I had to take baby steps all the way down the stairs to the main floor. I felt so self-conscious, discouraged, and weary of the pain!

However, as I walked out onto the snow-covered sidewalk, I looked across the street and saw a young man struggling to maneuver his wheelchair through the snow. Then looking down the sidewalk I saw a man with an artificial leg limping toward me. Each of us was struggling that night. And although my knee problem was a discouragement to me, the man with the artificial leg would have traded places with me in a heartbeat. And the young man in the wheelchair would have gladly traded places with either of us.

That winter night I was reminded that we all need a better world. Some miss loved ones and can’t wait to hold them again; some are weary of bodies that age and ache, and eagerly wait for immortal ones; some are worn out from battling depression or anxiety, and long for minds that are healed and at peace; some are tired of fearing terrorists, war, and natural disasters, and dream of Jesus’ promised return. Regardless of our reasons, it all comes down to this: we want to go home.

How can we trust that Jesus will come a second time? His first coming was prophesied in Isaiah 7:14, some 700 years before it happened. He promised to come—and He did. It’s now been over 2,000 years since He promised to return—and He will. Not as a Baby one silent night, but as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16), and with a shout loud enough to wake the dead (1 Thessalonians 4:16, KJV)! Two angels promised the disciples after they watched Jesus ascend to heaven, “ ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven’ ” (Acts 1:11).

What does Jesus’ birth mean to me? That He sees worth in me. That He understands when I’m tempted and has empathy when I’m discouraged. And that He’s coming back for me. The birth of Jesus that first Christmas has changed my life forever. And it can change yours too.

*All names have been changed.

What Jesus' Birth Means to You

by Nancy Canwell
  
From the December 2011 Signs  

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