A little girl noticed that her mom was getting really stressed out around Christmas. Everything was bothering her mom, and she was very irritable.
Evening came and the mom bathed the little girl, got her ready for bed, put her under the covers, and had her say her prayers. She would usually pray the Lord's Prayer, but on this particular evening, she amended it a little bit.
Her petition went something like this, "Father, forgive us our Christmases, as we forgive those who Christmas against us."
That is what happens when we lose focus of the real meaning of Christmas, isn't it? We get so caught up in the busyness of the season that sometimes we forget the wonder of it all: that deity took on humanity, that God became a man.
Scripture sums it up well in 2 Corinthians 8:9, which says, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich" (NKJV). Jesus literally went from the throne of heaven to a simple little cave or stable.
Can you imagine what must have gone through Mary's mind that day when the angel Gabriel appeared to her and told her she would be the mother of the Messiah? Her head must have been swimming. "What about Joseph? What are people going to say?"
But God had it all put together, because the time was just right in every way.
There was one small detail: the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, as Scripture prophesied (see Micah 5:2). But Mary and her husband-to-be Joseph lived in Nazareth. So the Lord touched a little man who was big in his own mind.
His name was Caesar, and at this particular time in history, he was the most powerful man on Earth. One day, Caesar gave a decree that all of the world should be taxed.
In reality, he was nothing more than a pawn in the hand of God. The Lord needed Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, so He moved events.
Mary and Joseph made the difficult journey to Bethlehem, which was especially perilous for a woman who was as far along in her pregnancy as Mary was. But they did make it, and there, the miraculous birth of Christ took place, just as Scripture said it would.
This little baby grew up quickly, and although we would love to know more about his boyhood, the Bible offers only a few details.
But we do read of one day in the synagogue in Nazareth when, as the custom was, the time had come for Jesus to read. He walked to the front of the synagogue, opened up the scroll, and began to read from Isaiah: "'The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord' " (Luke 4:18-19 NLT).
When He had finished, He sat down and said, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" (verse 21). He had declared himself the Messiah. His public ministry had begun.
This One who was sent from God was always in perfect sync with the Father. While He spoke with the learned spiritual leaders, He always had time for the outcasts of society - people like the woman at the well and the tax collector, Zacchaeus. People like you. People like me.
His ministry on Earth was only a few years, and then He was crucified. You can be sure that as He hung there on the cross, where all of the sin of humanity was placed upon Him, that this was God's most painful moment.
But then it was finished. He rose again from the dead, and after a time, ascended back into heaven, promising to come back to this earth. And we eagerly await that day.
This Jesus who was born in a manger, who walked this earth, who was crucified, and who rose again, is not some mere historical figure, although He was that. He is alive, and He is still in the business of changing lives.
That is the reason He came: to put us in touch with God, to forgive us of all of our sins, and to give our lives purpose and meaning.
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!