They Missed Christmas – a guest blog post courtesy of Chaplain Bill Wolfe, Llano County Sheriff’s Department (TX).
I was just thinking about the things going wrong in our country and across the world, and some words from an old, old Larry Norman song came to mind: “What a mess the world is in, I wonder who began it. Don’t ask me, I’m only visiting this planet.” Well, the truth of the matter is that the One who “began it” isn’t responsible for the mess it’s in. And He visited this planet once, for about 33 years, and it ultimately killed Him. Christmas is the day that a large number of people in this country and around the world celebrate the beginning of that visit.
I say a “large number” because, obviously, not everyone in this country does; some are Muslim, some are Jews, some are atheists, some are being politically correct lest they “offend” someone else. Some worship “christmas” (yes, little ‘c’ – putting up the lights, the giving and receiving of gifts as well as parties featuring intoxicating adult beverages) and not the One whose birthday it represents. Yet they are not the ones I was thinking of when the title of this article came to mind at church a couple weeks ago for most of them have not missed it, they have chosen to reject it.
As I was writing this I realized that there are two groups who will “miss” Christmas in the sense that they won’t be with us to enjoy the lights, the family and the celebrations. The first of these are the members of our armed forces deployed around the world and unable to make it home to be with family and friends. The second are those in the armed forces and law enforcement agencies who have lost their lives in service to our communities and our country this past year. We honor their sacrifices and pray that God will comfort their families as they face Christmas without their loved ones.
Well, now that I’ve wiped the tears from my eyes, I’ll get to what I had wanted to say initially. In that first literal “flash of inspiration” my thoughts went to the second chapter in the Gospel of Luke as he describes events surrounding the First Christmas. Caesar Augustus had decreed that a Census would be conducted and demanded that everyone buy insurance, I mean, would return to their ancestral home town to register. Thus Mary and Joseph had traveled to Bethlehem; and being late arrivals and poor at that, they were denied accommodations anywhere in the city and sent off to a stable where they were apparently ignored by everyone in town. As a result the townspeople missed out on the miracle of that First Christmas – the birth of the Baby Jesus. In my mind’s eye I could visualize the hustle and noise and commotion in the common room of the inn as they missed out on “Christmas.” They missed out because they were all focused on other things.
There was another group of folks who were busy tending sheep that night. Their story is also found in the second chapter of Luke. They had nothing to do with what was happening in town. (Recently I heard a Messianic Jew on the radio who was speculating that these shepherds were tending the sacrificial flock for the priests.) These unnamed, seemingly unimportant herdsmen were the ones who received that famous angelic proclamation “Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy…” They went into the city and found Joseph, Mary and the Baby and worshipped Him. THEY didn’t miss Christmas.
The next group who “missed” Christmas were the Wise Men or magi from the Far East. Their story is found in the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. They had been seeking a sign and had seen a special star suddenly appear in the sky. Understanding that star’s significance, they set out to find the Baby. They brought gifts of great value and symbolism which they presented to Jesus when they finally found Him and they worshipped Him. Even though they missed the actual event, THEY didn’t miss Christmas.
That leaves King Herod. His part in this is also recorded in the verses of Matthew Chapter 2. King Herod had no clue about the Baby born in a manger. He couldn’t have cared less. That is, until he learned that the Baby was born King of the Jews when the magi came to him seeking information as to where He was. (No GPS way back then. <grin>) Jealousy drove Herod mad almost instantly, and he ordered the slaughter of all the young male children in Bethlehem. Boy, did he miss Christmas! Not just once, but twice.
In a sense that first Christmas blind-sided the residents of Bethlehem, the nation of Israel, and the world. There were many looking for the coming of the Messiah, but they didn’t have advent calendars that counted down the days or prophecies that named the year, month or day. So perhaps many of those that missed it had an excuse. God entering into human history as a child was some event to miss – literally a once-in-a-lifetime.
So what does that all have to do with us? I know that many of us will have to work Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day. It would be nice not to miss those times together and hopefully our families will find a way to work around our schedules so we don’t miss out entirely. But I want to encourage you not to miss out on CHRISTMAS. Try to find a way, a time, a place to stop and realize what the season is really all about. Lights, trees, presents and family (and maybe snow?) – those are all good, but don’t miss Jesus this year. Check with the shift supervisor and see if you can check out on cell phone or something and catch a bit of a church service somewhere in your district. Stop and listen to the carolers if you chance by some. If nothing else, pull up into a church parking lot and read the Christmas story from your favorite Bible. The Gospels tell us that those who sought and found Jesus that first Christmas worshipped Him. For them was a life-changing experience. And it still can be for those who don’t miss it.
Who knows… the way things are going, we may find ourselves working on 25 December 2018 saying, “Remember the lights and decorations we used to see? Gee, I miss Christmas.”
Cheerfully ignoring political correctness, my wife and I wish you and yours a very blessed and merry Christmas. Take time to attend a candlelight service this year if you get the chance. We’ll visit again next year.Chaplain Bill firstname.lastname@example.org