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You, too, could miss Christmas!

By Les Thompson

Luke 2:1-20

Introduction

When a family moves to a city, one of the real problems is finding a church. When we came to Miami shortly before Christmas, we had to begin church hunting. On Christmas Eve, we visited a beautiful downtown church. The sermon title and content was:

“What Christmas means to me.”
—Joy: family
—Happiness: parties
—Friendliness: everywhere
—Presents: joy of giving and receiving

This would have been fine to hear had we not been in church. This sermon did not mention Christ… He was not there.

What does Christmas mean?

How easily we can miss something as important as the meaning of Christmas.

Like the rocket watcher in Opa-Locka (seen in The Miami Herald):

“There I was with my ladder on the roof, launch time 9:53 on — transistor radio and cold beer in hand and faithfully following The Herald’s instructions to look east. Some two hours and a six pack later, I saw it rising with a bright yellow glow. The neighbors came, even my wife climbed up on the roof to view the awesome sight.

“We waited and I kept pointing, but the thing didn’t rise. Suddenly my good neighbor’s wife pointed and said, ‘There it is!’ We all looked to the left and sure enough, there it was, rising in all its majesty – the Apollo 17 with its heroic crew heading for the moon. It curved up and out in its trajectory into outer space.

“It was such a beautiful sight as it rose from behind my tree  which is directly NORTH of my house!

“Oh, the shame of it all, the humiliation!

“The off-colored street light in north Carol City that I was calling everyone’s attention to, hasn’t left its pad yet!”

He was looking in the wrong direction—at a street light.

Christmas: what does it mean?

It is interesting how easily we can miss something as important as Christmas.

  • Santa?
  • Presents?
  • Parties?
  • Making money in business?

These are things looking in the wrong direction.

Scriptures tell of three who missed Christmas

  1. Business: The Innkeeper – Sales go up every year. So busy, there is no time for God. So concerned about offending relatives and friends by forgetting gifts. But no thought about forgetting Christ. Imagine the little donkey wearily walking up Miami Beach’s Collins Avenue. Mary is riding and Joseph is running from lobby to lobby looking for a room. “There is no room! We’ve been booked up for months. Move on!” say the hoteliers.
    xx
    At a football game yesterday, I was inviting friends to church for our special program. “Sorry, friends are coming in from out of town. We are very busy,” they said.  No time. No room.  Christmas has not changed from that notable first night when a Bethlehem Innkeeper had missed Christmas, but he was not the only one.  Think of Herod.
    xx
  2. Hatred and Greed: Herod – Not a likable man. Sly old fox. Guilty of murdering his three sons because his wife was afraid they were plotting for his throne. Probably an atheist. Certainly a cynic. Wise Men come asking about a newborn king. Imagine how he took that news!
    xx
    Plot: find him, then come and tell me so I can go worship him. (Murder, not worship.) If any man needed Christmas, it was Herod. He needed forgiveness, cleansing, a change of heart. He was full of greed, selfishness, self interest.
    xx
    How many today miss Christmas because of these same attitudes? Greed and self-interest can keep us from missing the good things in life.
    xx
    The story of the Christmas Carol and Scrooge: He missed friendship, beauty, happiness, good times, and Jesus. “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world yet lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)
    xx
  3. Religion and the religious leaders – They, of all people, should not have missed Christ’s birth.
    When asked the biblical questions, they knew the answer that Bethlehem was clearly prophesied. Yet, they did not leave whatever it was they were doing to go and search.
    xx
    I am amazed at the number of people I’ve talked with who know the right answers, but do nothing about dealing with them.

Except the Letter J

Scott O’Dell, the well-known author of excellent children’s stories, tells the true story of  The Prince of Granada, an heir to the Spanish crown, who was arrested and tried by the Royal Audiencia for fear that he might aspire to the throne.

He was sentenced to solitary confinement for life in Madrid’s old and infamous prison, the Place of Skulls, known for the bones of those who once had dwelt there, for its dripping water and assorted vermin.

He was given one book to read, the Bible.

The Prince of Granada read the Bible apparently hundreds of times, for when he died after thirty-three years in the Place of Skulls, his jailers found that he had covered the walls of his prison — using nails upon the soft, yellow stone — with a series of bizarre notations.

What were these notations that a man, during a life-time of reading the Bible, in hours of loneliness, terror, fear and boredom, scratched upon the walls of his cell? Were they reflections inspired by the greatest book known to Western man? Were they messages left to those unfortunates who were yet to live out their lives in the same Place of Skulls, messaged culled from the hope and wisdom of the Bible?

No, here are some of the notations his jailers found:

    • The eighth verse of the 97th psalm is the middle verse of the Bible.
    • Ezra 7:21 contains all the letters of the alphabet except the letter J.
    • Each verse of the 136th psalm ends alike.
    • The ninth verse of the eighth chapter of Esther is the longest.
    • The 35th verse of the 11th chapter of St. John is the shortest.
    • The word “girl” occurs but once in the Bible; the word “Jehovah,” 6,855 times; “The Lord,” 1,853 times.
    • No word or name of more than six syllables can be found in the Bible.
    • Both books of the Bible contain 3,538,483 letters.

Earl Nightingale’s evaluation:

The Prince of Granada was a man of some education. He could read and write and, most certainly, count.  It is reasonable to assume, from his flare for figures, his patience and industry that if he had lived today he would have made a good engineer. Yet he would have remained a man without humanity or a curiosity beyond the trivial.

This goes to underscore a fact: reading is not automatically a maker of men and women, of mature citizens who are responsive to each other and to aspirations of humanity. But reading is important, and especially to children, it is the key that unlocks the gates of education. And if they can find humanity there, too… so much the better.

The Prince of Granada never got deeper than the surface. Religious, sure, but he missed it.

Christ is more than reciting the Creed, saying a prayer, reading the Bible, going to church. He is the Son of God, come to earth to take away the sins of the world. He demands: “Come to me.”

Conclusion:

There are wonderful exceptions:

Mary and Joseph
Willing to give room for Him, change all plans and adjust for Him.

Three Wise Men
Unlike religious leaders, they left their homeland and were willing to be inconvenienced.

Jesus and parables
The kingdom of heaven is like:

—The man who finds a pearl of great price and sells all to buy it.
—The man who finds treasure in the field and goes and sells all he has to buy the field.

Shepherds
Hear the wonderful news and say, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and find out!”