The most important thing about Christmas
A few years ago I met a very clever and learned business consultant. He’d been an officer in the RAF and had moved on from there to work in the banking industry. He had eventually ended up as the Vice President of the Bank of America before retiring and taking up the mantle of a freelance business consultant. His name is Bob.
He told me this story:-
Bob had just started his career in banking and was the lowest person in the bank with the title manager. ( Of course just about everyone had the title of manager. I suppose it made people feel important when they were speaking to him and it kept some of the flack away from the real manager )
One day the real manager had been invited to the very grand “Institute of Banking” dinner but on the day he was ill. The under manager was on holiday and the under-under manager was otherwise engaged so Bob was invited or ordered to go to the very important dinner to represent the branch.
At dinner he was seated at the table next to none other but the President of the bank – His Big boss – THE BOSS. And they engaged in conversation. “Well then young Bob” said the President, “so you are going to be one of my managers then eh?” Bob replied that that was his plan. “So what is the most important attribute that a manager can have?”
Bob saw his chance to impress the boss but this was a tough question.
“The ability to forecast the markets” – Answer “No”
“Spotting good investment opportunities” – Answer “No”
“Striving for the best customer service” – Answer “No”
“Being good with figures?” – “No”
This went on all night until Bob gave in and said to the President that he didn’t know but would the President enlighten him.
“Loyalty” came the answer
Although all of Bob’s answers were important what good are any of them if you’re not loyal. Be the best investment spotter in the world but if you are not loyal to your employer then you are more destructive than a lousy investment spotter, working against your bank and not for it.
So LOYALTY is the most important thing – or so thought the president of the bank.
So what’s important about Christmas? What’s the most important thing about Christmas. Well if it’s what causes us most time and effort and perhaps stress it has to be:-
Turkey – did you get your sprouts?
Christmas cards – especially not forgetting those friends that you ONLY send a Christmas card to.
Of course none of these things have anything to do with the original Christmas so let’s look at the Shepherds passage from Luke’s Gospel to get an idea of what’s really important.
Well firstly they were Shepherds and they were at work.
Just ordinary working people – poor peasant shepherds. Not high and important not insignificant – just every day.
And the job of a shepherd in those days and even now to some degree is a hard one. Cold at night in winter, wolves or other predators attacking the sheep, out in the wilds, dirty sometimes but honourable. However, not the highest paid job then nor now – in fact among the lowest.
God chooses to reveal the best news ever, first to these ordinary folk. The news is revealed to the world later – to high people, to Herod and others. But firstly to the simple shepherds.
Because everyone is important to God at Christmas. God thought those shepherds so important that he invited them to come and see his new born Son.
When my children were born the first people that we wanted to know were those closest to us – in my case the Grandparents. God chose the shepherds then and he offers you that same invite this Christmas – come and see my son.
But the Shepherds are filled with fear when they get a hint of the Glory of the Lord. But the angel tells them “do not be afraid”
Now that we can relate to. God sends an invitation to us and it scares the living daylights out of some of us if we would but admit it. ME – a TRUE Christian? WOOW. But it’s important to loose that fear.
“Do not be afraid I bring you good news of great Joy” verse 10
Of course the birth of the Messiah is the good news of great Joy. The Angel told the shepherds that day and the bible tells us the same news if we want to believe.
There’s a young woman that goes to Saturday Night services. Her testimony from alcoholism and drug dependency in total depression to a thoroughly happy, free person is a real blessing. It happened when she heard and accepted the good news about Jesus Christ.
That’s another important thing about Christmas. When you get the invite from God how do you respond?
Well we hear that the Shepherds don’t waste a moment. They hurry off to find Mary and Joseph and the baby.
Sometimes there’s no substitute for being there in person.
One of my friends is a convicted criminal. He’s been sent down for a number of deception crimes and drug crimes. My wife doesn’t like me associating with him because she thinks I may get involved. I’m just hoping and praying that He gets involved in MY activities in the Church.
This man never does anything for himself – he always pays someone to do it for him. He looses his driving license he gets a driver. He needs a dirty job doing – he hires someone. There’s worse but I won’t go into that.
Well a few years ago we went skiing with a bunch of guys. Many of the gang couldn’t ski so took lessons at the dry slope in Sheffield. Skiing is hard for beginners. It hurts, it’s exhausting, it’s easy to quit. My friend skipped the lessons that were booked for him with the group – too much bother.
The trouble is that when we got on the slopes he was hopeless and helpless. All the lads went straight up the mountain and had a week of great fun. He spent a miserable week sitting alone in the chalet watching TV.
Sometimes there’s no substitute for being there in person – like the shepherds.
And like us today. Christmas in church is not about listening so much as about feeling. You don’t listen to a Christmas eve service – you feel it.
Like a baby when it grabs hold of your finger. Ever so firm – ever so gentle
And if you want to experience this feeling you have to get close – you have to attend in person. You have to let the baby get hold of you and you have to get close.
So when I say being there in person I’m not referring to the journey from home to this church here – I’m thinking about the journey from your head down to your heart.
Jesus is already in your home - How close are you getting to Jesus this Christmas – It’s important.
And the final thing we see in this reading from Luke’s gospel is what the Shepherds do, having seen Jesus for themselves.
17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
The Shepherds spread the word, like we are doing this Christmas. – It’s important to spread the word.
They also returned to their work “glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen”
When we go back to our daily life it’s important that we glorify God and praise him by our actions and the way we live our lives. The true “Christmas Spirit” lives in us way beyond Christmas.
Let me sum up
Everyone is important to God – no matter how lowly – the invite to Christmas is for you.
Being frightened by such an invite is natural – but do not be afraid.
God has wonderful news for you.
As you are important to God so is your response to Him.
If you want Jesus to hold you, You have to make the journey personally and hold out your hand to him. (A long way from head to heart or some people)
Don’t keep the Good news to yourself and glorify God in your everyday life after Christmas.
So we come back to the Bank manager story or more importantly the question as to which is most important part of Christmas.
In banking isn’t it so obvious when you think about it (or maybe to some it’s not so obvious)– It’s Loyalty. Because it’s that underlying quality that without it, nothing else matters.
And the most important part about Christmas?
John 3 16
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”
The most important part about Christmas is Jesus Christ.