2In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
This is the story of Christmas – whatever we may add, this is the story. But this is only the beginning of the story. As it goes on, Jesus lives out his calling – teaching, and preaching, telling about the Kingdom of God, loving each person he met! He especially loved the "outsiders": the tax collectors and prostitutes, the sinners and the poor. He listened to women, in a culture that didn’t; he paid attention to little children, in a culture that didn’t. He went through Samaria, when others went around. He told stories where the Samaritan, hated by the Jews, was the hero. (Substitute Muslim for Samaritan in that story and apply it today.) About the only people Jesus ever condemned were those who were certain of their own righteousness, and eager to judge others, those who frowned on him for eating with the "tax collectors and sinners." He taught that we should love one another, that we should love God, that we should love our neighbor as ourself, and that we should even love our enemies. And in the end, he went to the cross for our salvation, that we might know God’s forgiveness, that we might experience Grace. He forgave even those who nailed him there, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." This is the story of Christmas.
And now, take the story to heart – even today. Hate and fear are far too prominent in our world today, and they have no place in the hearts of those who follow this Jesus, Savior, Messiah! The Kingdom of God is founded on love, not hate.
That is my final message to those of you who have participated in this on-line study. If I get a blog set up in the future, I will let you know, but for now, I am closing as I retire next week. I have enjoyed writing to you, and sharing my thoughts!