“They’re going to be just a few months apart. They’ll always have a best friend to play with.” I don’t want to burst the perfectly planned little bubble of expectant parents when they say this. So, I smile and nod and remember the days when those words came out of my own mouth.
My two oldest boys are fifteen months apart. As very young children, they did play well together. They did almost everything together, watched the same shows, and liked the same toys. Then, they started to grow up. Their beliefs of how they should interact with the world around them began to diverge. My oldest became very order and rule oriented. His brother is a little more of a free spirit. One is studious, the other athletic. Both are creative, but in very different ways. As their personalities developed, the comradery they had known as children was strained under the weight of their differences. Now entering adulthood, but still at home, their differences cause more friction than their similarities allow for friendship. (Though I have hope for the future. My own brothers are very different, but they found their common ground since they stopped living under the same roof!)
I am amazed at how unique my sons are. Face it, they share the same DNA. Two apples off the same tree should look and taste the same, right? Often, with people, that isn’t the case. And that is a really good thing. God has a plan for each of my children, and He made them exactly like He wants them to accomplish that purpose. Sure, He has to sand off the rough edges of their personalities, but my oldest is not equipped to fulfill the purpose of the younger brother. Nor is the younger equipped to do what God will call His brother to do. All of my children need to be unique in their personalities and passions because God needs to grow them into the person perfectly suited for the plans He has for them and not anyone else.
It’s good to remember this as we consider our differences with others, but also keep it in mind as we read scripture. Looking for a new Bible study as Christmas approached, I wanted one that deepened my understanding of Jesus. I wanted to revisit the gospels and see the Christmas story with fresh eyes.
I decided on The God Who Cares and Knows You by Kay Arthur. I’ve always enjoyed inductive Bible study, and this one in the gospel of John sounded perfect. The only problem with reading John to get a new outlook on the Christmas story is that John is one of the two gospels without mention of the Christmas story.
All the gospels were written to share the good news of Jesus. Why would John choose not to focus on Jesus coming as a baby in a manger? That’s where the story begins, right? Not exactly. While each of the gospels have the same basic purpose, the men God chose to write them are as different as my sons. They have different backgrounds, personalities, and passions. Things one remembers as important, might not have caught the attention of another. The people being written to were different as well. They had different needs. So, the focus and information contained in the gospels written to them had to be different too. Tailored by God to meet their specific needs.
John’s sole purpose was to show people that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God. He needed to impress on the recipients the idea that Jesus, born man, was also God from the beginning. So he didn’t start with the manger. He takes us back to creation and establishes Jesus as God the Son before moving through His ministry, death, and resurrection.
Though he doesn’t include the traditional Christmas story, John introduces us to the reality of “God with us” and what that means for us. And because he does this, I can study John and come away with a fresh appreciation for the Christmas story and for our God who loves us enough to write four gospels as unique as the people they are meant to speak to.
By the Book: Read the opening chapter of John. Then, read the Christmas story in Matthew and Luke, keeping in mind who the baby in the manger really is.