Editor’s note: This devotion is slightly adapted from the FREE Ministry Message that accompanies one of CTA’s Christmas themes, Come to Bethlehem and See. This theme features gifts and resources for children’s and adult ministry. Check it out today!
In the 1989 movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Clark Griswold festoons his house with 250 strands of lights—100 bulbs per strand. That’s 25,000 bulbs in all. We can guess that, once Clark finally got his display to light up (and that did take some doing!), the Griswold home was probably visible from space!
In nearly every city and town across the nation, there are always a few individuals and families like the Griswolds who make decorating for Christmas their personal mission. Outdoor displays, especially those with lots of blinking lights, can be eye-popping. Some enthusiasts even sync their light display with music, broadcasting it over a weak FM radio transmitter. That way, everyone who drives by can tune in.
Once you set up a display like that, you invite everyone you know to come see it.
On the very first Christmas night, angels announced the Savior’s birth to the shepherds in the darkened fields outside Bethlehem. Those angels put on a light show like no other, before or since! And they issued an invitation, straight from the heart of God himself, to “come and see.” Listen for that invitation now as I read. (Read Luke 2:8–14.)
We know that the shepherds heard God’s invitation to “come and see” because of what they did next. Listen! (Read Luke 2:15–20.)
The well-known French Christmas carol “Angels We Have Heard on High” repeats the heavenly invitation first heard by the shepherds. The carol’s third stanza says:
“Come to Bethlehem and see
Christ, whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.”
(James Chadwick, 1813–1882)
We know what the shepherds did when they heard the angels’ invitation. I wonder what we would do.
If we saw the nighttime sky open up and God’s holy angels appear, if we heard the words the angels spoke, words of hope, of peace, of joy, I believe that most of us here would hurry off to Bethlehem.
Of course, there are trees to decorate and parties to plan. There are gifts to buy and rehearsals to attend. There are even sermons to prepare and songs to practice. With everything that crowds our calendars, a few of us might decide we can’t take the time to “go over to Bethlehem” to “see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us” (Luke 2:15 ESV). But most of us would, wouldn’t we? We would not ignore the invitation: “Come to Bethlehem and see Christ, whose birth the angels sing.”
Here’s the harder question though. Would we willingly “come, adore on bended knee”?
After all, the Baby in the manger is, in every respect, well, a Baby. The pictures we see on Christmas cards and the manger scenes we place under our Christmas tree or on the front lawn show Baby Jesus smiling, content, cooing—every family photographer’s dream.
Except, he wasn’t. He was a real human Baby. You don’t hear sermons about it, but Baby Jesus needed diapers. He spit up. He cried. As he grew bigger, Baby Jesus even wailed in the way all babies wail in the middle of the night when they are hungry or hot or cold. Baby Jesus was a real human Baby.
Baby Jesus was also really God, true God, the best Christmas present ever. Jesus was true God wrapped up not in tissue paper and ribbon, but in human flesh and bone and blood. The shepherds got that. In God-given humility, they believed. It’s why they knelt beside the manger in worship. Our Christmas carol invites us to join them there:
“Come, adore on bended knee
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.”
Imagine the humility of heart it takes to pray to a Baby, to worship a Baby, to see that Baby as Christ, the Lord—just as the angel declared. The shepherds did not merely feel warm thoughts. They did not simply admire Jesus’ cute little toes or his plump, pink cheeks. No, they actually knelt in worship, they knelt to praise and thank this Baby—Christ the Lord, the newborn King and Savior.
The apostle John tells us, “In him [Jesus] was life, and that life was the light of all mankind” (John 1:4 NIV). I don’t know if the Light of Life that lay in that manger was visible from space or not. I do know that every angel in heaven saw it—and bowed in worship and in awe.
This Christmas, I invite you to join those angels! Come, adore our newborn King! The Savior sent in love to live a perfect life in our place. The Savior, who grew up to die a gruesome death—the death we, by our sins, have deserved. The King who rose from the dead and who gives us the gift of life eternal, now and forever.
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