(This was a short message preached at the end of our children’s Christmas pageant.)
For many people Christmas isn’t here until they’ve seen the Kid’s Christmas Pageant. There’s something about the innocence of Children that makes the story come alive and we saw that this morning.
I that what it is, is that it takes the story out of the theoretical and puts it in the realm of real people. Even if the shepherds are wearing bathrobes and the Angel’s halos are made out of tree tinsel, they are just ordinary kids. And the first Christmas was made up of just that, ordinary people. People like you and like me, so I wondered what it would be like if we could step into some kid of magical time machine and transport ourselves 2000 years back in time. I wonder what role we would be playing in the pageant.
The Innkeeper Was There. How could this man know that when he turned away that young couple from Nazareth that he was assuring himself a place in history.
Luke 2:7 records what happened that night, She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the village inn. The innkeeper wasn’t being malicious, he didn’t have anything personal against Mary and Joseph, he just didn’t care. The inn had been packed for days with the census going on. Maybe, I don’t know if the inn was actually full or if we need to take a closer look at the phrase, there was no room for them in the village inn.
You see Luke didn’t say that there was no room in the inn, what he said was there was no room for THEM in the inn. I wonder if demand had outstripped supply and prices had soared beyond the reach of the ordinary person. I wonder if there would have been room in the inn if Joseph had of been Herod’s carpenter?
The innkeeper is symbolic of the vast majority of people on that Christmas day. They didn’t know that Mary had given birth to her first born son, and if they knew they wouldn’t have cared. Isn’t that the way it is today? People rush about their business, they go here, they go there. There are trees to find and trim, Christmas lights to put up, presents to buy and wrap, a turkey to stuff and cook. The entire season has become a cult in itself.
And there are a lot of people just like that innkeeper, not antagonistic about the real meaning of Christmas, they just don’t care. They really don’t care that Christ was born, they don’t care that he lived for 33 years, they don’t care that he died on a cross for them, and they don’t care that after the third day he rose from the dead. For them there’ll be no Christmas eve service, no Christmas day service, no Christmas story or Sunday School pageants. They’ll get a few paid days off work, a turkey dinner and presents, it’s like the old Toyota ad said “Who could ask for anything more?”
Herod Was There. Matthew 2:16 Herod was furious when he learned that the wise men had outwitted him. Furious is a good word, Herod was so angry that he ordered the execution of all the male children under the age of 2 in Bethlehem. We actually didn’t put Herod in the paegent, figured it would be like getting a kid to take the part of Hannibal Lector.
But he was there the first Christmas Day and he was furious. Herod was definitely hostile to the true meaning of Christmas. Sociologist Robert Lynd said “There are some people who want to throw their arms round you simply because it is Christmas; there are other people who want to strangle you simply because it is Christmas.” Herod would fall into the second category of people.
It’s not Christmas that people like Herod really resent; it is the religious nature of Christmas. They are kind of like the two ladies who spotted a cross in a store window at Easter, and one commented, “Some people will try to put religion into everything.”
People like that like Christmas, but they’d prefer to keep Christ out of it. They would have us trade the manger for a toy store, they would have us swap Jesus for Santa and exchange the cross for a Christmas tree. And there’s nothing wrong with any of those things, unless they replace what Christmas is really about. My kids used to light up around Santa, but the fat man in the red suit had to take a back seat to Jesus Christ.
The Shepherds Were There. Luke 2:8,16 That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep. . . They ran to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. I hate to malign the shepherds but I tend to think of them as flash in the pan Christians. Like who wouldn’t be impressed, talk about an engraved invitation. They had this great choir of angels who told them about the Christ child, and that moved them to action. Listen to Luke 2:17 Then the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.
But that’s all she wrote, we don’t hear anymore about the shepherds, no aged shepherd making his way to the cross to weep at the feet of Christ, as he saw the fulfilment of the promise. None of the disciples were shepherds; there were no surprise witnesses at the trial of Jesus. No they stayed in Bethlehem, for them it was too far to travel to get to Calvary. When the chills and thrills stopped they were assimilated into everyday life.
Do you remember the first miracle that’s recorded in John’s Gospel? It was when Jesus was at the Wedding in Cana and he turned the water into wine. Listen to what the Bible says right after that, John 2:23 Because of the miraculous signs he did many people were convinced that he was indeed the Messiah. And why not, it’s easy to believe when someone feeds 5000 people with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish, it’s easy when someone turns 180 gallons of water into wine, it’s easy to believe when a multitude of the heavenly host proclaim the truth from a celestial choir loft.
It’s not always as easy to maintain that belief when you’re sick, the kids are crying, the washing machine is overflowing and the car won’t start. Or when you get laid off work, your spouse leaves you and your parents are dying. All of a sudden belief isn’t nearly as easy, but hey that’s life. We can’t live forever in the manger at Bethlehem. The reason the Christian faith and the Christian Church has survived and flourished over the past 2000 years is that there have been some who after the angels have gone, and the heavens are still, and life is life, they still believe.
There are those who profess to keep Christ in Christmas and they do, the problem is not only do they keep Christ in Christmas they leave him there on Boxing day. The shepherds were an integral part of Christmas, but I really wish that we saw them again somewhere outside of Bethlehem.
The Wise Men Were There. Matthew 2:1-11 Records the story of the wise men, and we really don’t know much about them at all, but we do know that their belief cost them something. We don’t know where they came from, how long they had been travelling, how many there were or where they went afterwards. They glide into the story, present their gifts and then just as quietly they disappear.
If we listen to tradition we can learn all about them, their numbers were three, they were kings, and tradition even knows their names, their ages and what they looked like. And if we were to choose to pay the fee we could even see their bones in the shrine behind the high altar in the Cathedral in Cologne Germany. But of course those are just traditions.
However little that we know of the wise men we do know that they came from a great distance bearing their gifts of love. They brought Gold, frankincense and myrrh, but greater than any of those gifts was the fact that they brought themselves.
But out of all of the people that were there that first Christmas, there is only person that we know for sure who was not only there at the beginning of the story but was also there at the end and all points in between, and that was the young virgin who was his mother. Mary Was There Her life was changed forever by the child that she had that day. Every moment of every day would be changed from that point on. You see Mary’s was not a half-hearted experience, or a part-time commitment. She was 100% committed to the child she called Jesus. And that is what He is looking for today. He wants us to come to the manger with the same attitude as Mary. Because it’s only when we are completely sold out to Jesus that we will be able to make the trip from Bethlehem to Calvary. This Christmas I trust that we will bring to Christ the one gift that he is looking for, and that is that we can say just like Mary did in Luke 1:38 “I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants.”
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