When it was suggested that Ruth tell the Christmas story for children everywhere, we were delighted. But we had to warn the publisher that “our” Christmas story would be different from the traditional manger scene that spells Christmas for many people.
Of course, the manger scene is an important part of Christmas in our home – and joyous and beloved climax to the story. But it is only a part of the story. For Christmas does not begin in the stable of Bethlehem. It does not begin in the Gospel of Luke, but in the Book of Genesis.
Visitors to our home at Christmas are sometimes startled when I read the tragic story from the Old Testament before an evening of carols.
“Aren’t these grim thoughts for this happy time of year?” they ask. “The season of Jesus’s birth is no time to talk of death. What do Adam and Eve have to do with Christmas?”
To which we answer: Everything. Without the story of sin in the Old Testament, what can the Good News of the New Testament say? Without sin, we have no need of a Savior. We cannot separate our joy at Christ’s coming from our desperate need for Him. Unless we have witnessed the tragedy of man’s separation from God through the millennia before Bethlehem, then the birth of a baby in a stable is just that for us, no more.
Nor can we separate His birth from the work He came to earth to do. Without His death, His birth has no meaning. The birth without the Cross is a gift half-given. Many would rather not think of the Cross at Christmastime. They take the angels’ song, but reject all that it implies. In doing this, they rob themselves of the full joy of Christmas.
Children are more realistic than adults. They have no trouble grasping the real meaning of good and evil in a story. In this respect, we need to be more like children. When we see Christmas not as a sentimental, isolated event, but as the focal point in human history, it becomes a day of rejoicing indeed.
Foreword by Billy Graham from “Our Christmas Story” by Ruth Bell Graham