The Herald Weekly Vol XV : 51

Would you miss the Christ at Christmas?

We often prepare ourselves for very special occasions, especially the birth of a new baby. But sometimes, even the birth of a baby comes unexpectedly. I remember the birth of our first grandchild eight Novembers ago. Priscilla was not even due yet; in fact there were 8 more weeks before the baby would arrive. However, the little boy was so determined to be born. As first-time grandparents, we were so excited, and a little anxious, when we had to rush Priscilla to the hospital. The birth pangs were getting unbearable. We prayed for her as the midwife mentioned something about a possible Caesarian. When the gynecologist arrived, he said there was no need for surgery because the baby was so small (less than 2 kg in weight). Thus, Nathanael was born in the early hours of that morning. Philip missed it all because he was away on a work assignment. Nevertheless, he was so delighted to hear the good news. Both he and his wife were busy at the NICU for almost 3 weeks before the baby was big enough to be discharged.

So it was with the birth of the baby Jesus. There were a few who missed His birth. Someone once said: The irony of Christmas is that when Christ does appear, people fail to recognize Him.” The religious leaders and the king at that time failed to recognize Jesus.

Why did some people miss Christ’s birth?

1. The religious leaders (chief priests and scribes)

These were people whom you would least expect to miss such an important event as the coming of the promised Messiah. These were people who knew the Scriptures. They would have practically memorized large portions of the Old Testament. They were known to have condemned and shamed publicly those who broke any part of the commandments!

Matthew 2:4-6 tells us that when the wise men came to Jerusalem to inquire about the birth of “the King of the Jews”, King Herod had “gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And THEY said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet…for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.”

These religious leaders were not ignorant fools. They knew Micah 5:2 by heart, and their daily lives were filled with religious rituals in the Temple. They were so preoccupied with getting the ceremonies and festivals right that they missed the reason for all that they were doing. They were so focused on getting everything perfect, yet they missed the birth of their long-awaited Messiah. John 1:11 says. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” The chief priests and scribes were the ones who confirmed that HE would be born in Bethlehem, yet they did not bother to stop all that they were doing in order to look for the BABE of Bethlehem and to worship Him.

I pray that those of us who know our Bibles well will not miss the importance of the birth of Christ. May we not be so caught up with the religious activities in the church that we forget to really worship HIM, our King of kings!

I pray that those who lead or teach in church, in the Bible Study and Sunday School classes, the fellowship groups, the Care groups, will not miss the Christ; those who serve in church, whether as pastors, Session members, preachers or full-time servers, youth leaders, chairmen, music accompanists, PA helpers, ushers, providers of flowers or food, and many more…will not be so caught up in the motions of service that we forget whom we are serving. If in our service, we become so preoccupied with the sermon or the lesson, the hymns and music, the bulletin, powerpoint slides, the information on our handphones, the flowers or the food… how then can we convey the true message of Christmas to all those around us?

2. King Herod

“He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.” (Jn 1:10)

King Herod was a non-Jew, but called himself the King of the Jews through his father’s political connections with the Roman Empire. He did much to please the rulers of Rome and was rewarded with an army by which he expanded his kingdom to as far as Lebanon.

Being an evil man, he exacted high taxes on the people and subdued all who revolted against him, especially the sons of the Maccabeans. He probably was one who lived with fear…of those who would overthrow him; and even executed his eldest son for wanting to overthrow him.

Herod was one who pretended to be interested in Christ’s birth. Matt 2:7-8 tells us that he secretly enquired of the wise men about the star that they had followed to Jerusalem. “He sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.” But Herod’s fears made him feel “mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.” (Matt 2:16-17). But God protected His only begotten Son. He sent an angel to warn Joseph and Mary of Herod’s wicked intentions, and they fled to Egypt for the baby’s safety.

King Herod missed the Christ of Christmas because of his fears, anger and pretention. And so will many others in the world. They will miss the true meaning of Christmas because they do not want to acknowledge Christ as King of their lives. They are fearful that they have to give up their secret or known fears, their status in life, their wealth or possessions, their great plans for so-called happiness in the future. They may even celebrate Christmas, but do not wish to dethrone themselves in order to put Christ as LORD of their lives.

I pray that if you are leading a life of pretense…stop now, and acknowledge Christ this Christmas. Do not be afraid that you will lose control of your life when you submit to Christ. With His power and blessings, He will grant to you more than you can ask or think of. Be a true believer of Christ and let Him do what is best for you, not what you think is best for your life. Do not miss Christ this Christmas!

3. The innkeeper

The first inkling that we may have about an innkeeper is in Luke 2:7. The verse says: “And she (Mary) brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” But, the innkeeper, if he had known that the King of kings was going to be born in his inn, he would have given his best room to Mary and Joseph!

Luke the physician, who wrote the Gospel according to St Luke, tells us the reason for Joseph and Mary to be in Bethlehem. It must have caused great anxiety to Joseph to have his heavily-pregnant wife travel miles to their hometown on the back of a donkey just to be taxed by the Roman Emperor. Imagine if all of us who are Chinese were ordered to return to China one day to pay taxes to the Chinese government. Many would be up in arms, and would carry out protests on the social media, let alone on the streets. But, being obedient citizens, the couple made their way to Bethlehem.

It must have caused Joseph even more stress to find out that there was no room for his wife to deliver the baby. Like all other returning citizens, they must have gone to several inns to enquire of any vacancy. (These days all going on vacation or work overseas would have pre-booked booked through Trivago or Agoda the best hotels/motels for the holiday or work). Poor Joseph and Mary were quite at their wits’ end as “the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.” (Lk 2:6)

But no one at the inn offered their rooms, let alone the innkeeper, who would have been really very busy attending to all the other guests. These may have pre-booked their accommodation, or were given their rooms because they arrived before the couple. In his busyness, and truly, because there was no more rooms, Mary had to make do with delivering her baby in a stable for animals… “and laid him in a manger.” Imagine if your wife, or some lady in your family, had to deliver her baby in a place other than the hospital for babies. You would have felt really bad for not providing the best for her and the newborn.
The innkeeper missed the Christ at the first Christmas because he did not know it was the Christ who was to be born. His wife, if he had one, was probably too busy to even give up their own room for the birth of a baby. Their preoccupation with providing accommodation for those involved in the Roman census made it impossible for them to make room for the Baby Jesus. There were just too many things to take care of!

In all the busyness of the season, let us not crowd out our Saviour this Christmas. Let us not be caught up with the trivial things in preparing for Christmas, and miss out on the quiet celebration of the joyous birth of God’s begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

And, it is not just the busyness at Christmas time…but all throughout the year. We often get so caught up with our heavily-scheduled lives that we have no time for Bible reading and prayer, no time for solitude with the Lord Jesus. We take time off for vacations because we have worked so hard throughout the year, and so deserve the break. Yet, we have no time to read a few verses for Quiet Time, or it takes too much time just to join the prayer meeting, or even whisper a prayer for those in need.

Let us not be like the innkeeper who was just too busy during the time of Christ’s birth that he had no room to offer Him. Let us stop all that we have been doing this year, take time to reflect on God’s goodness, and again acknowledge Christ as Lord of our lives this Christmas. Let us give Him the accommodation that He deserves – an abode in our hearts.

Pastor Bob Phee

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