Maybe like me you have missed the motorway exit that led to your destination, or perhaps you missed a train or a coach. Has anyone given you directions and said, “You can’t miss it!”, and when you get there you cannot see it? It is possible to miss something even when all the evidence is in front of us. Almost everyone in the world will miss Christmas this year. Yes, all the advertisers will make mention of it, but their main concern is to make money out of the season. Millions will sit down to a Christmas dinner and hear the Queen’s speech, but the true significance of the day will be lost on them. Many will stand in some church singing carols, though usually for sentimental reasons rather than spiritual. With all the activities surrounding Christmas, most people will miss the reason for the season: Jesus Christ.
“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she 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” (Luke 2:4-7).
We may wonder what was going through the innkeeper’s mind that night in Bethlehem. By the way, the Bible does not specifically mention him, but it is reasonable to assume that he did have a part to play in the story. Whoever was responsible for letting the rooms was unmoved by the pathetic state of the man and pregnant woman standing before him. They were turned away to find some place where Mary could give birth. Nativity stories usually say that the innkeeper gave them use of his cattle shed, but Scripture does not have that embellishment. With all the visitors in Bethlehem for the census, he did not have time for charity when there was money to be made. He must have had his own room that they could have rented for a few hours and they obviously had money to pay, but maybe he was too busy and sidetracked by other things.
The other characters of the Christmas story, the shepherds, were busy too, but they saw the significance of the day. “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night … And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger” (Luke 2:8, 15-16). They willingly laid aside their responsibilities to go to see Jesus and participated in the wonderful celebration of His birth. “And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child” (Luke 2:17). The innkeeper was overjoyed with the crowds, but only the shepherds got to enjoy the main event.
“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” (Matthew 2:1-2).
King Herod missed the first Christmas too even though he was well informed by both the wise men and the priests about the birth of Christ (Matthew 2:4-7) Those who know their Bible are aware that the wise men were not there at the manger with the shepherds but instead arrived in Jerusalem when Jesus would have been about two years of age. The story of Herod’s part of the story does serve to show how people respond to Christ’s birth though. Herod was terrified at the thought that a new king was walking the streets of Israel. “When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (Matthew 2:3). He was scared of what he might lose if the people chose this new king, and his fear was contagious. He was not Jewish, he had been made king by the Romans as favour to his father, so he had much to lose if the people chose a Jew to reign over them, for the significance of the phrase, “King of the Jews” was not lost on him.
Herod missed Christmas because he wanted to be king and was nor prepared to let anyone rule over him. He saw Jesus as a treat and sought to get rid of Him (Matthew 2:16-18). Most people who celebrate Christmas only think of what they will possess by the end of the day and have no thought of Jesus. In fact, there has been a concerted effort over the years for any mention of Jesus Christ to be removed from the season, because national and civic leaders find His name offensive. They do not want the Saviour spoiling their sin-packed, selfish parties. The trees, tinsel and gifts but not Christ, will rule the hearts of many again this year.
“And when he 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 Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel” (Matthew 2:4-6).
The religious leaders missed the first Christmas also. They had the prophecies in front of them and could even quote them. They knew exactly where the Saviour would be born and had all the right information relating to the event. It seems that Micah 5:2 was well known to the chief priest and the scribes, but they still missed the point. All they needed to do is walk a few miles down the hill from Jerusalem to the little town of Bethlehem and they would find the one that the Scriptures said would come. For almost two years they knew these facts, for news of the shepherd’s message must have reached their ears, “And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds” (Luke 2:18). They probably knew that if they told Herod what had happened, they would suffer for it, for he was obviously a crazy megalomaniac. They were satisfied with their lot and needed no hindrance to their privileged positions. They did not want the birth of Jesus to be true and were not prepared to teach others the good news.
What a wonderful opportunity the religious leaders of our day have to tell others about Jesus, but few will! Why? If they did preach the true meaning of Christmas, and that Jesus is the only Saviour for sinners, then they might not retain their high positions for long. They are too satisfied with their jobs, and all that they gain through them, to say things that might cause others to criticise them. They have Bibles in their possession, yet few will relate to their congregations what the Scriptures say about salvation. Those high ranking church leaders might lose their royal appointments. On December 25th they will give a sweet message that is acceptable to all religions and avoid any controversial statements relating to the Person that the season is meant to be about. Simply put, there will be loads of religious activity, but they will miss Christmas.
As Christians we do not worship the day, but instead we worship Him whose day it is meant to be. Let us like the shepherds tell the multitudes about the reason why Christ came. What a wonderful opportunity we have to give the good news to our lost relatives and friends as we hand out cards and gifts. Make this Christmas all about Jesus.