It was also not a great time for God’s people. They were labouring under Roman rule and did not enjoy complete freedom to carry out their cultural and religious practices.
But all this did not detract from that amazing evening. For those who knew what was going on—like Joseph, Mary, and the shepherds—the first Christmas, though quiet as it may seem, was full of significance.
While they had little opportunity to celebrate publicly, they could mark the day in their hearts. For Christ’s arrival was not only going to change the course of human history, but it would also change their own little worlds—their individual lives and personal destinies.
Not only that, no big, public celebrations or outreach events were needed to ensure that the news travelled. The first witnesses of Jesus’ birth “spread the word” (Luke 2:17) simply by telling others, by word of mouth, what they had seen and heard. The wonder in their eyes, the excitement in their voices must have been more convincing than any evangelistic event.
Can we do the same today?
While Christmas celebrations this year are going to be quiet—an online service and perhaps a small family gathering—they can be just as meaningful, if not more.
Not having the annual flurry of church activities gives us a little more time to reflect on what Jesus’ arrival really means for each one of us. Not having the usual outreach event gives us an opportunity to share the good news with a loved one or a friend in a personal way. Like the shepherds, our personal testimonies of how God has transformed our own lives will make the best Christmas story to tell others.
Just as the suspension of church services earlier in the year helped many of us to review our perceptions of what “church” is really all about, I believe that having a quiet Christmas can help us rethink what this season is really all about.
I am praying that this Christmas, God may quieten my heart and spirit to focus my thoughts on the birth of His Son, and allow this marvellous truth to renew my faith and transform my life. Perhaps you may wish to take time to do likewise?