For many people the Christmas season is a joyous time filled with family gatherings, way too much (good) food, and an abundance of gifts. But for some, it’s far from the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas is only a reminder of what is missing, or broken, or not right. Christmas only highlights the fact that they feel completely forgotten by God.
It’s easy to make that leap if you are walking through a difficult season of your life. The external circumstances are grim and there seems to be no relief at the end of the dark tunnel you are staring down. If this is your life this Christmas season, you have far more in common with the biblical characters surrounding the Christmas story than you might think. The people who make up the birth account of our Christ are a very unlikely cast of characters. They are an old couple who are burdened with childlessness, a poor teenage virgin with a husband from an obscure town, and the Savior himself—born in a manger, not a much deserved royal palace. Christ’s descent to earth was (and still is) a loud call to all of us that we have not been forgotten.
Zechariah and Elizabeth
Consider this unlikely couple. Every external observation implies that they are long forgotten by God. Luke tells us that while they have asked God for a child for many years, they have now reached old age with no child to call their own. In this culture barrenness meant certain reproach for Elizabeth. She would be viewed by her community as defective and unable to do the very thing she was created to do—bring life into the world. When the women around her experienced pregnancy after pregnancy, Elizabeth was an outsider looking into a world she couldn’t know. Zechariah surely faced tremendous pressure also as he cared for his wife, grieved his own loss of having no heir, and fulfilled his God-given duties as priest. While many would give into the temptation to sin by taking the matter into their own hands, or turning from the God who made them, we are given a small glimpse into Zechariah and Elizabeth’s response to their lifelong infertility. They were righteous. They entrusted themselves to a faithful God, believing in his promises to them, and trusting that he would work good in their lives. They hoped in him alone and believed that he was not finished with them yet.
And he wasn’t.
We know from the rest of the story that God answers their prayer for a child, and not just any child, but the child who would be the promised forerunner to the Messiah. This old couple who waited years for God to answer their longing for a child, now have one who plays a pivotal role in the greatest story of history—the story of Jesus.
Mary and Joseph
By the time the angel appeared to Mary, and ultimately Joseph, the people of Israel had experienced over 400 years of silence from God. Many Jewish people died having never witnessed any revelation, prophetic voice, or tangible act from God. And that took its toll on God’s people. Many Israelites turned away, determining that God’s promises could not really be true. Mary and Joseph, who Luke tells us are righteous people, represent the faithful few. They are the ones who held on to the Old Testament promises even when it seemed like God would never act. It was through this seemingly insignificant girl that the Savior would come into the world. In a cave filled with animals, in a small town far away from home, she would give birth to the Messiah with her loyal husband by her side. No one would have expected it from them.
And that is how God works. He takes the forgotten, the outcast, the insignificant and shows them his kindness and greatness by glorifying himself through them, sometimes in some of the most surprising ways.
Christ the Savior
But no one shows that we are not forgotten more than the Savior himself. Isaiah 53 says:
“He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.”
He was momentarily forgotten, afflicted, and separated from God the Father so you would never have to be. That holy night in Bethlehem was moving towards this very reality. Christmas is the precursor to Easter. The incarnation proves that God keeps his promises, and the atonement on the cross seals that promise for good, making us God’s own children. It proves that you are not forgotten because God can never forget his own.
The wonder of Christmas is that we weren’t forgotten. And he showed up in the lives of people who the world viewed as forgotten and of little worth. God became man to rescue us from our sin and bring us into fellowship with himself. He made himself nothing, identifying with lowly and despised people to show that no one is forgotten regardless of their circumstances. You are not forgotten this Christmas, or anytime of the year. The manger where this little baby lay all those years ago is proof of that.