Summary: What does it mean that Jesus was despised and rejected? Are we who call ourselves Christians guilty of despising the Son of God, even rejecting Him? The message is a challenge to examine our lives to ensure that we honour Christ Jesus the Saviour.

“He was despised and rejected by men,

a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;

and as one from whom men hide their faces

he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” [1]

During these festive days of celebrating the birth of the Son of God, Christ is the unrecognized guest at multiplied tables throughout the world. We celebrate His birth, and forget Who we celebrate. Perhaps you heard the story of an incident that occurred many years ago when wealthy parents had invited family and friends to celebrate the birth of their son? The incident was notable because of the neglect displayed by the new parents. As the invited guests arrived, the host hurriedly laid their coats on the bed in the master bedroom.

As guests filled the house, drinks were supplied liberally and gifts for the newborn child were piled high in the living room. At last, one of the guests asked to see the new arrival. When the mother went to the child’s bedroom, she was unable to find the infant. After an exhaustive search, the child was discovered lying under the pile of wraps tossed on the bed. The child had been laid on the bed in the eagerness to greet the first guests as they arrived. Those first wraps were casually tossed on the bed, and the coats and shawls of each guest that followed was added to the growing pile of winter wear. Neath all these outer garments, suffocated by the weight of the guests’ wraps, was the child whose birth they had gathered to celebrate.

It is a parable of our contemporary celebration of the birth of the Son of God. Eagerly celebrating His birth, we unwittingly smother Him beneath the symbols of our wealth and privilege. I recall an occasion when our family went into Vancouver to look at the displays in the main Woodward’s store. For those who were never able to see those displays, these were brilliant displays. The artistry and the craftsmanship were of such exquisite beauty that multitudes were drawn to walk the length of the windows just to view the scenes pictured there. As our family stood before one particular window with a nativity scene, we overheard a man behind us growl, “Those Christians! They have to interject their belief into everything—even Christmas!”

My point in relating that story from an earlier day is simply to point out our tendency to seize every opportunity to celebrate without actually thinking of the reason for the celebration. Christ, Who should be the centre of our celebration, is ignored in the midst of our festivities. He is shuttled into the background as the celebration itself takes precedence. I am always amazed at pictures of the Ginza, brightly lit with Christmas decorations during the season. What is amazing is that less than one percent of the population of Japan is Christian, and yet, the celebration assumes prominence. It isn’t that much different in other nations in which Christians are a definite minority.

Even Christmas! Imagine! Christians attempting to put Christ into Christmas! What chutzpah! What audacity! During my studies at the Einstein College of Medicine, though I had not yet come to faith in the Son of God, I was struck by the fact that even my Jewish colleagues sought to seize upon the celebration of Christmas. One memory is a brilliant molecular geneticist who put on a red stocking cap with a bell on the peak, loudly and repeatedly proclaiming himself to be “Hanukkah Claus.” Admittedly, I found it hilarious to see him with his dark beard and twinkling eyes walking the halls of the medical school with that stocking cap carefully placed over his yarmulke, proclaiming himself to be the embodiment of the season.

THE SON OF GOD DESPISED? REJECTED? REALLY? In a sermon that the Master delivered while He was seated on the side of a mountain, He cautioned those who heard Him with these words. “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” [MATTHEW 7:13-14].

Jesus cautions us that there is a way that leads to destruction; and it is startlingly easy to travel that path. Travelling that path requires no particular effort—one need only go with the flow, moving along with the crowd. Just as there is a way that leads to destruction, so there is a way that leads to life; and travelling along that narrow way is demanding for any who seek to travel along that particular path. The path will demand one’s full attention since the path is strenuous. If you will transit this path, expect it to be narrow, expect it to require your full attention.

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