Friday, December 20, 2013

Missed Christmas

Chatting with a few friends they expressed all the activities they had to cram into a short amount of time in order to be ready for Christmas. 

The to-do list seems to get longer each year, leaving hardly any room for rest they confessed.

Later in the week while listening to a radio broadcast, I was reminded of how easily Christians get caught up in the festivities, so much so that we have missed Christmas.

What's on your Christmas bucket list?

Those who celebrate Christmas usually have a run-down of things they want to do for the holidays.  Maybe your list looks similar to this:

Bake cookies, make gift packs for the neighbors (don’t forget the refuse collectors, mailman, barber, etc.). Order gifts online from Favored1 (OK, that’s a plug), make out the cards, get stamps, decorate outside and inside, put up the tree, wrap presents, practice for the Christmas play, choir, office party, get gift exchange gift, Ron’s birthday, groceries …

By the time the list is finished, who has energy to enjoy the holidays?  There’s no “God rest ye merry gentlemen” around my house with so much to accomplish.

Have all these things caused us to miss the true meaning of Christmas?  We spend more time making sure we get the right gift and leave no time for witnessing about the One who is Christ-mas (Christ the Messiah).

Where Did the Day Go?

It’s easy to get caught up in pleasing others or doing things to ease our conscience at this time of year.  Perhaps you go out of your way to do those special things for people and they don’t even notice it. 

Or maybe you’re a person who invites a lot of people over for the holiday by throwing an enormous party, only to have an emotional let-down after it ends.  All your hard work wasn’t appreciated, people came, ate and went home leaving you with the mess as well.

Christmas for you certainly wasn’t “tidings of great joy,” but work, work and more work leaving little time for fellowship or relaxation.  There you were, a by-stander watching Christmas slip away causing you to miss what was right under your nose.

Let me share something with you.  Forget brow beating yourself, people have been missing the real Christmas as far back as the very first one.

How to Miss Christmas, Big Time

I have to admit that I have been guilty of activity overload.  Many years ago my schedule was so full there wasn’t any room left for Christmas. 

As soon as my teaching resumed each September we put up the outside lights. In October we took a 4 day mini vacation to the Adirondacks in New York over Columbus weekend. Baking began and inside the house decorating was next, because I decorated everything! All shopping had to be completed by Veteran’s Day (November 11th), especially things that needed to be shipped anywhere. Birthdays were abundant from that time up until and including Christmas day.

Weekly choir rehearsal, along with the cantata play practice were taking place also.  Teach during the day, college classes 2 times a week for another degree, parties, social events and finally the end of the activities came on December 26th with a big family gathering at our house.  We maintained this ridiculous schedule for years until we realized we had been missing Christmas doing Christian things.

I have watched a lot of people doing religious activities like I was in preparation for the year end celebrations.  Were they doing what I did? Are they missing out on the meaning of the holiday?  Do any of the things really make a difference in the scheme of life?  Have we become like the religious leaders in Jesus’ time and neglected what God is doing around us? These are the things I have begun to question in my own life.

Millions of people will assemble in churches expecting to hear a Christmas message.  What will they receive?  Will the focus be on us or on pointing the lost toward God in hopes that they may come to the saving knowledge of Christ Jesus?

Failing to understand that Christmas is about relationship to God means we have missed Christmas, and if we do that, we have missed Christ.

Those Who Missed Out

The Bible gives us a record of events that took place leading up to and including the Birth of Jesus.  Matthew’s account (chapter 2:4-6) verifies that Joseph and Mary had made the long trip back to his homeland of Bethlehem to fulfill the census ordered by the King.

It’s hard to comprehend that there was a time that the scriptures were not available to all people, but that was the case.  Throughout time there have been religious leaders, history scholars, interpreters of scriptures and transcribers (linguists) of the Holy scrolls who copied the Word of God for others to read.  These men were summoned by Herod for a meeting, because word had gotten back to him about a new king, a Messiah that was born.  Oh no, was he going to be replaced?

Quickly they searched the scriptures and found the prophecy of the prophet Micah (5:2).  It read that a new king would be born in Bethlehem indeed.  The kicker here is that once they had this information, none of them walked the measly three miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to check out if the prophecy had come true.

If anyone shouldn’t have missed Christmas it was these “religious” men.  After all, they already believed the prophet and the scriptures.   Besides the shepherds and perhaps some of the people traveling with them, there is no evidence that anyone else came to worship the King Jesus.  Here they believed God, but didn’t follow after Him.  What God was fulfilling in their life time didn’t really concern them.

Is there another?

King Herod the Great
How is it possible for Herod to inquire about the Messiah, get his answer, believe there was a new born King and never find a way to go and actually go see Him?

Matthew 2:7-9 explains what Herod did after he received his traveling visitors known as Wise Men or lesser Kings of other lands. When these gentlemen arrived at the palace they openly asked Herod where the King of the Jews was so they could go worship Him. (Reference)

Herod being a jealous and wicked ruler gave orders that would prevent anyone else including his family from overthrowing his throne by having them all murdered.  He went on to declare that all male children under the age of two be killed just to make sure that no one was left to fill his shoes.  Fear and jealousy caused Herod to miss Christmas.

At the time of his demise another command was put into action. The unruly ruler was so hated that he ordered that leaders be gathered together in the city and had them murdered making sure there would be mourning in the place.  Even though it wasn't for him, it would appear as if it were.  Some of us might think a person like this doesn’t deserve Christmas anyway and got what he had coming to him.

I know it’s hard for us to accept, but Jesus was born to die, and he came to earth for King Herod as well as the shepherds, you and me.

People Like Us

Streets of Bethlehem
Most of the people who celebrate Christmas probably fall into this category.  I know I did. We don’t mean for the major event to go unnoticed, but it happens.  Somehow we become Christmas Martha’s and need for it to be called to our attention before we notice what we’re doing.

Ordinary people going about the business of the day, caring for families, working, attending services and socializing are distractions that cause us to miss worshipping the KING of Kings.

Let me use the owner or inn caretaker that the Bible mentions in Luke chapter 2, during the time of the birth of Jesus.  Bethlehem was hopping with thousands of travelers returning to their homeland to report for a census.  The King of Palestine had order it, so no one was exempt. (Reference)

With the city being jam packed inn keepers (hotels) were up to their ears with guests.  They had the responsibility of tending to patrons, their animals, getting rooms ready, money exchanges, meals, lodging and caring for their own families. 

By the time Joseph and Mary arrived the rooms were simply gone.  It is assumed that Joseph had the money to pay for a room, but it didn’t matter.  Money or not, nothing was available.

Taking writer’s liberty I can imagine the master observed Mary’s condition.  Being a warm night the animals were still out to pasture and having compassion he offered the empty stable as a last resort.  Who knows, maybe Joseph had to pay for the use of the stall, we don’t know.

What we do know is that the person in charge didn’t have a clue what was happening out his own door.  He was right there in the middle of the greatest event to have event taken place on earth up to that time. Didn’t he hear the angels or shepherds?  How did he miss the glowing light from Heaven or angels declaring the arrival of the baby?  If he saw any of this, don’t you think someone would have mentioned it? 

There is nothing in scripture to lead us to believe this person wasn’t a kind, giving sort.  The reality of it all is that he was too busy and involved with “Martha type things” to notice, and therefore missed the first Christmas.  Do you think he ever regretted it?  Years later did he sell tickets to see where the Christ child was born? 

Back to the Manger

Throughout the entire announcement of the Messiah’s arrival, the Bible records worship as the main focus. Believers in God weren’t surprised by this event, they were expecting it.

John the Baptist’s parents Elizabeth and Zacharias were found worshipping, the angels worshipped when Jesus was born, the shepherds, Simeon, Anna, Joseph and even Mary worshipped the Lord, rejoicing and proclaiming baby Immanuel as the One that was prophesied to be the Messiah. (see Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2)

The desire to worship the KING of the Jews went on for two years or more until the Wise Men finally found the babe to offer sacrificial gifts.

It's Time for A New Activities List

In understanding that we have fallen into the trappings the holiday season brings, what can we do to avoid missing the main event? How can we have a "Mary" Christmas in a "Martha" world?

First, start worshipping the King of Kings.

Make sure that you have not left out the Christ in Christmas by creating a new list of things you won’t do this year.  Cross out anything (I mean anything) that will prevent you from worshipping the Lord.  Stop worshipping the activities instead of the Almighty.

Second: Begin by Recognizing Favor

Like Mary the mother of Jesus, begin your holiday with focusing on the new born KING.  Celebrate the gift from God with singing as Mary did, in your home and in church. (Mary’s song Luke 1:46-55)

It’s time to get excited and aware of God’s favor on your life. Mary praised God for favoring her over all others in allowing her to give birth to His Son. 

“Rejoice, highly favored one, he Lord is with you; blessed are you among women.” (Luke 1:28 NKJV)

That’s major!  Think about it, she was chosen over all humans to carry out the task of bringing Jesus into the world. (Luke 1:28)

Third: Fully Surrender to the Call  by Sacrificing Self

When receiving the good news, immediately Mary fully surrendered her life to her Heavenly Father.

She didn’t even question Him or consider the events that would take place causing her to be an outcast in her culture and community.  She sacrificed her life, dreams and desires willingly and felt blessed to be used by God.

What are you willing to sacrifice to God as a thanksgiving offering for favoring you? 

Will you respond to the Lord as Mary did without questioning the assignment that may alter your life forever?  Be it unto me… Let it be according to Your word.” (from Luke 1:38)

You may not realize it, but all children of God are a “type” of Mary.  God has chosen, favored you above anyone else for a certain mission that no one else can do.

He has selected and called you out from among the billions of people ever to have walked this planet to do a special thing for Him.  How do I know this?  God said that He has good plans for “you.”  This must mean something is on His agenda concerning each of His children.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a (good) future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV)

Stuffing Christmas in with Things

With Christmas right at our backdoor, our lives may look like those decorative stockings we stuff little gifts into if we’re not careful.  

When we concentrate on all the outward things of Christmas, the true meaning of it gets stuffed in with all the non-essentials and is only brought out at the end of the activity.

We can miss Christmas by letting the blessing of the Savior’s birth get packed in with the gifts, decorations, banquets or hoop-la of the season.  Don't let this happen to you.

Make sure all the preparations don’t keep you from going to church.  Join together with fellow believer’s and welcome friends or neighbors to church as you worship and celebrate the birth of the Savior.  A KING is born, rejoice CHRIST-mas is here!

A King is Born - Ron Kenoly.wmv With Lyrics

Until next time, favor King Jesus with worship.

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Scripture reference was taken from the New King James Bible Version provide by Gateway Bible
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