Summary: A look at the real Christmas as they shepherds and wise men experienced it.
We began the Advent season looking at Christmas through the eyes of the world. Last week we looked at Christmas through the eyes of Mary and Joseph. This week we want to look at Christmas through the eyes of the shepherds and wise men, and on Christmas Sunday we will look at Christmas through the eyes of God.
The Christmas story happened so long ago that sometimes it seems out of touch with our modern times. I once saw a “Dennis the Menace” cartoon where Dennis is saying to Joey: “People used to wish upon a falling star. . . I think that was before they had catalogs.” Today, Dennis would say, “That was before the Internet!” You can actually set up a “Wish List” on your Amazon account (Which I have done if you are interested.) Christmas was before we had a lot of things, but it brought the One thing that we needed more than anything else.
Christmas was such a long time ago that we have tended to idealize it—make it more glamorous and charming than it really was. Christmas was a real life event, and it caused real life problems as well as being wonderful. It was the highest event of human history, and certainly the greatest and most wonderful thing God has ever done for the human family. But at the time it was mysterious, and the events proved chaotic for those involved. Simeon accurately prophesied to Mary: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:34-35).
No one, including Joseph and Mary, fully realized what was happening. No one understood what it was really all about. It is not always easy to understand why God does things the way he does. The Lord said through Isaiah the prophet: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). The events of Christmas proved the truth of that scripture if nothing else does. We sing the hymn entitled: “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”, in which we find these beautiful words:
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.
As a Christian, I do not always understand why God does the things he does, but I have learned to trust him, even though his will for me may not always be easy — or even make sense to me. Perhaps you wish God would do things differently in your life to make it easier, but his will, even though it may not always be easy, is always best. The test comes when we decide whether or not to believe that and act as though it were true.
I’m sure if it were up to us to plan that first Christmas we would have done things quite differently. Let’s take, for instance, the people God chose to tell about the coming birth of his Son. Think for a minute about how many people really knew that God was sending his Son into the world on that wonderful night. The greatest event in human history, and yet out of all of the people in the world there weren’t a dozen people that were told about it, and they were very unimportant people — according to the world’s standards.
Of course, there was Mary and Joseph, and possibly Mary’s relatives, Zechariah and Elizabeth. Besides them, there was a small group of shepherds and some men from a foreign country. Other than that, as far as we know, God did not bother to tell anyone. And the ones he did tell did not fully realize what was happening. God did not bother to inform any world political leaders, and interestingly, no religious leaders were let in on the secret either. Outside of Mary and Joseph, just a very unimportant band of shepherds working nearby, and some mysterious foreigners who are never heard of again.
Now, if we were doing it we would do it quite differently. We would have it on the morning news with “on the scene” coverage at a world famous hospital. We would splash it on the front page of Time and Newsweek magazines. We would have visits by the leaders of all the great countries, and a special NBC report. Every newspaper, radio and television station would carry the story. Dr. Sanjay Gupta would talk of the rumors of a virgin birth and the medical improbabilities of that happening. Shows like 60 Minutes would have all the latest gossip, and bore us to death with opinions from everyone who was in any way related to the event. All of Mary and Joseph’s neighbors and relatives would all be interviewed, with close up shots meant to reveal their underlying feelings. They would discuss all the political and social ramifications of what this unusual birth would have, and if Andy Rooney were still alive, he would look at it with his usual satirical wit. No average person would be allowed near, and Secret Service agents would surround the hospital and the holy family. That is the way the world does things — it just isn’t the way God operates.