The People Who Miss Christmas!December 10, 2023
An old pioneer traveled westward across the Great Plains of America until he came to an abrupt halt at the edge of the Grand Canyon. He gawked at the sight before him: a vast chasm one mile down, eighteen miles across, and more than a hundred miles long! He gasped, “Something must have happened here!”
What if we brought someone from the rain forest of South America to our community in mid-December. As they viewed the lights, decorations, parades, parties, malls filled with people shopping and churches with special services, no doubt they would say, “Something must have happened here.”
What is the “something that must have happened here”? Could you explain to the foreigner what happened here? Have you stopped to consider the full extent of the cause of our celebration?
Did you know that most people miss Christmas every year? Almost everyone in America celebrates Christmas, but most people don’t know why they celebrate. They rush here and there; they buy presents they can’t afford, to give to people they don't particularly like; they go to parties till they are sick of going. They sing songs they don’t understand; they watch old movies about Christmas and endless holiday TV specials. Many go to church out of tradition, others in search of some sense of meaning, some because of the warm feelings of the Christmas season, etc. Then when December 26th rolls around, it is "I owe, I owe, so back to work I go!" Then in less than a week, it's time to get ready for the New Year's festivities.
One thing hasn't changed since the time of Joseph and Mary - nearly everyone missed that first Christmas, too. Those who missed Christ and Christmas all have their counterpart in modern society.
Some of the Common Causes for Missing Christmas
The Demands of Material Prosperity - the Innkeeper - Lk. 2:7, “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”
The town was crowded, the innkeeper’s business was good, and after all a man has got to make a living. He wasn't hostile or even unsympathetic, just busy taking care of business. His problem was self-imposed ignorance and preoccupation with material things.
Someone said that there is always room if you belong to the right company. Well, Mary and Joseph did not have any right connections. There was no room. The innkeeper was unaware that these were very special people and that the most earthshaking event in history was to take place on his property. And so Mary gave birth to her son Jesus in the stable of the inn.
Beware of the barrenness of busyness!
A Detestation of Absolute Authority - Herod - Matthew 2:2-3, “… behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him;”
Herod, the king, couldn't bear the thought that there was another king of the Jews to whom he would have to bow in subjection. Herod's problem wasn't ignorance it was independence. It was the idea that there was an absolute, unchanging authority whose laws were unchangeable and whose person was not subject to the will of the people or the whims of earthly rulers.
Thomas Nagel was a professor of philosophy at New York University who had a deep-seated hatred toward religion: "In speaking of the fear of religion, I don't mean to refer to the entirely unreasonable hostility toward certain established religions. I'm talking about something much deeper - namely the fear of religion itself.... I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and most well-informed people I know are believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and naturally hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that!"
King Herod represents anyone or anything that tries to stand in the way of King Jesus, purposing to destroy or usurp the rightful reign of the Divine Seed to preserve the throne claims of self, society, and Satan! Their cry is that of all those Jesus spoke about in a parable in Luke 19:14, "But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, 'We will not have this man to reign over us.'"
A Disposition of False Spirituality - Priests and Scribes - Matthew 2:4-6, “and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
This is astounding! These religious leaders and scholars knew exactly where the Messiah would be born, yet they had no interest in going 6 miles, or in sending someone else to go and report back to them concerning the news that Persian wise men were inquiring about and had traveled so far to find the newborn King.
The birth of Jesus was the occasion of God laying in Zion that which became a Stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to the majority of the most devotedly religious people in Israel. Why? Because they had a disposition of false spirituality. Why bother to go looking for something you feel that you already have?
They were offended in the face of the unexplainable. Their problem was much like ours. They had reduced God's Word and ways to the size and shape of a box of their on making. This box would contain, explain, and make plain the way God would appear, and the way He would act when he appeared. Moreover, when God revealed Himself in another size and shape of box, they were at his birth indifferent, in his boyhood perplexed, in his public ministry highly offended, tripped up, insulted, and outraged.
Question? Will you miss Christmas because you think you know how and where and what Jesus will look and act like when he shows up? When Jesus shows up in my life or at the church in a manner that's different than I had expected, will I be blessed in the face of what I can't explain, or will I be offended?
In the birth of Jesus, God set a pattern for all to see that no one would ever find their way to Jesus, would ever properly prize and praise Jesus, without direct, supernatural revelation. Being a good Bible student, being smart, having political clout and social influence is totally inadequate.
A Demeanor of Religious Activity and Apathy - People of Jerusalem – Matthew 2:3, “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him;”
Why did the people of Jerusalem miss Christmas? Religious activity and apathy. They had the Temple, the rituals, ceremonies, the rules, the priests. They were too busy worshipping the right God in the wrong way to even bother to consider the reality behind the rituals. Like their religious leaders, they were too apathetic to walk five miles and check out the big news for themselves. Then when the Messiah came to town riding on a lowly donkey their expectations turned to disappointments.
The Deadening Effects of Contemptuous Familiarity - People of Nazareth – (Read Luke 4:16, 22, 28-29)
The people of Jesus' hometown allowed familiarity to cause them to "reassess what they had seen, in the light of what they knew!” Human reasoning replaces divine revelation. Faith's wings are clipped by reason's scissors. Familiarity breeds a lack of faith, and without faith it is impossible to please God. It keeps God as small, safe, and distant.
Familiarity redefines what we have and causes us to devalue it so that it becomes common, nothing of real value, nothing to really treasure. The people of Jesus’ hometown couldn't believe what their eyes had seen because of the presuppositions about Jesus. They presupposed that because he was a carpenter's son, and the apparently illegitimate child of Mary, living in humble surroundings with very ordinary brothers and sisters, that there could be nothing of value, of worth, of honor, in such a common man. In their case familiarity bred contempt!
Familiarity always exchanges an exclamation point for a question mark.
Don't miss the reason for the season - Christ, who was historically born and now wants to be spiritually reborn in you.
Perhaps you've been missing Christmas for many seasons. You get and give gifts, decorate a tree, do the family thing on Christmas Eve and Day, but you know in your heart that you’re no different than those who missed the first Christmas.
Why not pray with the hymnwriter: “O come to my heart Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for Thee. Cast out the sin and enter in, be born in me today!”