Missing Christmas

It’s an intriguing and enchanting story, that aspect of the nativity where the wise men visit the holy family in Bethlehem. Noble magi. Long journey. Mysterious star. Valuable gifts. From our perspective, it’s an enchanting story.

But from the perspective of the Jerusalem locals, it’s sadly ironic. Foreigners greet the King of the Jews, while His own people overlook Him. Pagans travel hundreds of miles, while Jewish scholars stay home. The magi present gifts and bow in worship, while the local king ruthlessly tries to have the boy killed.

These Jews had waited hundreds of years for their Messiah to arrive; but when He finally came, they missed Him entirely! It’s sadly similar to how some people approach Christmas today: high expectations, long wait… But when it finally arrives, they actually miss it altogether. Oh, they might still observe traditions and give gifts; but in terms of what Christmas is really all about, the events of their December 25 are all show and no substance. How does this happen?

Some people miss Christmas because their focus is too narrow. They direct all their attention to the day itself, and then if the day doesn’t go exactly as they had planned, their Christmas is ruined. It’s intriguing to me that, in Matthew’s gospel, Christmas Day gets only a handful of words: “she gave birth to a son” (1:25). And “Jesus was born” (2:1). The inspired author is relatively unconcerned with Christmas Day as an event in itself, demonstrating what he thinks is significant about Christmas. The day isn’t nearly as important as the meaning behind it.

Other people miss Christmas because of a careless mind. Isn’t it odd that the visit from the Magi didn’t provoke an investigation? Why don’t any of the religious or political leaders from Jerusalem travel 6 miles to Bethlehem to check things out? What about you? Don’t the claims of Christianity at least warrant thoughtful, open-minded investigation?

Finally, some people miss Christmas because of a fearful heart. Herod the King was ruthless, mostly because he feared anyone who posed a threat to his position. News of a new king’s birth would have shaken him badly, and his violent reaction is perfectly in keeping with his personality. I don’t expect you’re a homicidal maniac like Herod. But I do wonder if you share his fear. Fear that Jesus might upset your life. Fear that He might demand more than you can give. Fear that His claims might not be true. Is this why you might miss Christmas?