Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Luke writes of shepherds, he writes of magical stars, he writes of a babe in the manger, and he gives a detailed account of the birth of our savior Jesus that is all so familiar at this time of the year.
12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” Luke 2:12-15 ESV
But the other Gospels speak of the Word becoming flesh or they might focus on the virgin Mary’s joy in carrying the baby savior to term. Yet curiously the gospel of Mark opens his gospel not with the birth of the Savior of but the birth of the ministry of a full-grown Jesus.
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:9 ESV
Imagine being a witness like the shepherds to the heavenly host proclaiming the birth of Jesus. Now imagine being present when God himself speaks from heaven as witness to Jesus being his son. The heavens themselves are torn open by God’s interference in the normal order of the universe. What is clear from the Christmas gospel history is that God is making a move that he had promised generations before. God is tearing in two the divide between the cursed creation and the perfectly holy God. The Shepherds see angels praising God from the threshold of heaven and John the Baptist sees the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descending on Christ. Jesus promised his disciples that they would be witnesses to heaven opened up and with the heavenly host traveling back and forth between Christ and God.
50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:50 ESV
What a time to be alive. For the disciples who walked with Jesus and for us who are his church today. I celebrate Christmas because of what God has done. The birth of Jesus who is God in the flesh. The ministry of Jesus teaching us and setting an example of life that God finds honorable and finally the curse destroying Jesus who died, was buried, and then rose to life all to save me and to restore me with God.
37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:37-38 ESV
Christmas is the season we focus on the birth of Jesus because of what Jesus accomplished. Now is the time of grace and mercy. Now is the time to turn to the savior of the world. What he accomplished on the cross with his death at the hands of sinners is a tearing down of the veil between God and man. Jesus opens the sky and invites each of us to look heavenward.