Every Advent Christians again ask, “What is Christmas?” Time and again we are reminded that the Christ would be born to be rejected, resulting ultimately in His crucifixion. To the world this seems like utter failure, but to God and His people this is the heart of salvation, the meaning behind Christmas.
Of Christ’s rejection David writes in his second Psalm: “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Christ.” If the powerful people of the world (kings, rulers) are against the Christ, shall not their subjects treat Him in like manner? Isaiah thus predicted in the prophetic present tense that the Christ “is despised and rejected of men.”
Fulfilling such prophesied rejection we behold the Christ being rejected—even from the womb. In John 8:41 we hear the Jewish leaders mockingly taunt Jesus, “We were not born of fornication.” From this mockery we begin to understand the persecution that the mother of our Lord bore as she carried the persecuted Christ in her womb. No doubt this fornication-taunt dated back to when Mary first began to “pooch out” in pregnancy. The world reasons, “How else could she be pregnant except by fornication?” No doubt throughout her life Mary bore this cross, bestowed by the Spirit-conceived, persecuted Christ.
When the Christ child was brought to the Temple, aged Simeon prophesied to Mary, “…and a sword will pierce even your own soul.” Throughout her years as mother of the Christ, and then especially at the cross this proverbial sword pierced her soul. Mary would indeed be deeply wounded— because her Son was born to persecution, born to be rejected, born to be tortured to death.
The obvious persecution to the infant Jesus occurred when the Jewish king, Herod, set himself against the Christ. He sent the evil edict of execution on the innocent Child, ultimately murderously martyring the babies surrounding Bethlehem. These babies and all martyrs bear the cross of Christ’s rejection.
As He grew can you imagine the persecution the Christ-child experienced as his fellow children began to realize he was unlike them…He was the perfect, sinless child, always obedient to authority. In this perfection He was so much above them that he would never vengefully retaliate. How often did this never-seen-before perfection cause the holy child to experience verbal and physical castigation?
The Christ was born to be a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” We should not think of the crucifixion as completely foreign for him; it was simply the climactic point of persecution and rejection.
So what is Christmas? It is the celebration of the birth of the rejected Christ. Of His ultimate rejection Isaiah predicted, “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried…The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” We rejoice every Christmas, for His rejection means our acceptance before God—it means our sins have been atoned for.
Like the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Church will be persecuted for the Christ she carries and delivers. Yet also like Mary, we behold the reality of the resurrection, the reality that because He lives we shall live also. Rejoice this Christmas as the blessings of the rejected Christ flow far as the curse is found!