“Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” - Luke 2:4-7 (KJV)
I can still hear the crackle of the needle on the vinyl as we set up our Christmas trees as children. I can hear the pops in the songs from the needle running over the tracks and the imperfections in the record. I can hear our laughter as we placed the ornaments on the tree, and the bickering of siblings who shared the love for one specific ornament and who should get to put it on the tree that year. I can hear the crunch of the needles (real or manufactured). I can see the sparkle of the lights on the tree. I can clearly hear four songs playing that were a must play for our family as we decorated.
First was always Alvin and the chipmunks’ “Christmas Song.” How my dad loved those cartoon chipmunks and their squeaky voices and Dave yelling to Alvin. Then we would sing “Silent Night” and “O Christmas Tree” in German and then English. Then “Away in a Manger” sung by someone like Jonny Cash or Alabama. Then my dad would always play the entire album by the Carpenters “Christmas Portraits.” This was some of our traditions in my family as we set up the house for Christmas. To this day I like to pull out the record player and my dad’s records when we set up our tree to hear these songs and share them with my son, and I look forward to sharing them with my son who is due to be born in April.
At church, we would have the Christmas story read, but the tradition was that it was read in the King James Version. To this day, I still hear the story of our Savior’s birth in my head read in that particular translation. As we celebrate with those we love, we develop our traditions together. Newly married couples develop their own traditions their first year together, and it’s often a merger of their families’ traditions. As we go through our traditions each year, they remind us of those we love, those who love us, and the love of our God who was born in a Manger that night all those years ago to the Virgin Mary. I am sure that year, the census and a pregnancy that wasn’t expected, changed some of what Mary and Joseph did at that time of year. Nonetheless, they traveled to Bethlehem to be counted, and there the Word of the Lord was fulfilled that the Savior would be born in Bethlehem to the House of David.
It is in this Baby that all the promises and prophecies of God would be fulfilled to save the world from sin. As this baby grew, He would turn His face to Jerusalem where He would go to die. His blood poured out to pay the price for our sin, and give forgiveness to all who believe. Then He would rise from the grave to bring eternal life to all believers. Then one day, since He ascended into heaven, He will return as He left to raise the dead and welcoming those who believe into His kingdom forever, fulfilling the final promise. This is what we see prepared for us when we look at the Christmas Manger scene every year, as we look to the birth of our savior, that God loves you so much that He came to save you, and He did so in Jesus. He died for you. Forgiving your sins, giving you salvation, and He gives you eternal life. This is what we see in the manger.
Happy Christmas to you and your family. The Lord be with you.
O God, You make us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Grant that as we joyfully receive Him as our Redeemer, we may with sure confidence behold Him when He comes to be our Judge; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (prayer from Lutheran Service Book for “The Nativity of our Lord” for Christmas Eve).