Andrew: Missing It
Missing a family member’s birthday can be a big mistake. Some of us know that from experience. I had the reverse experience—I missed my own birthday. Not just any birthday but my 16th. I called home from school as we were getting ready for homecoming and said I wasn’t going to make it for dinner. My mom had, of course, prepared a nice dinner and was a little upset at my late notice and disregard for her preparation (sorry, Mom).
Missing a birthday can be a big mistake. Missing Jesus’ birthday could be a bigger one. However, missing it would be nearly impossible. There is no way stores will let us consumers miss it. The question isn’t, “Will you miss it?” but “How will you respond to it?”
The holidays from Thanksgiving to the New Year seem to bring out a number of emotional responses that can go from exhilaration to melt down just like going from one Christmas present to the next. Ahh—‘tis the season’. The Gospel of Matthew provides some comfort that we are not alone or all that unique. Matthew tells us some of the responses when Jesus was born.
For instance, King Herod was angry—he was disturbed and it upset all Jerusalem (Matthew 2:3). Herod was disturbed because if Jesus is a new king then he is a threat to Herod’s power. This meant he was visibly disturbed to have such effect on the city. Family tensions, looming job layoffs, credit card debt, and marital strife are all threats to your power and stability. They can make you grumpy and angry. The people around you notice it and may keep their distance.
Some people respond with anxiety. Angels singing from the sky, shepherds spreading the news, and now wise men from the East come to visit. If Jesus is the Messiah as the prophets said then they should be excited not anxious. Sometimes all the hype and change can be unsettling. When you like ‘normal’ and don’t do well with change you could be anxious because you don’t know if Jesus would be good for you or not. Maybe you are anxious because your spouse has bought into the Jesus thing and become religious. You are not sure what following God will require of you next. Your road hasn’t been smooth, but filled with many bumps. You need to know that God came to be with you in this broken world to begin to redeem it and us.
Some people are apathetic. King Herod gathered a council of the people’s chief priests and teachers of law. These two groups of experts are at opposite ends of spectrum—the most religious and the most political. If they agree then it is amazing. They know the prophecy about Jesus being born in Bethlehem and they give the right answer. They pass the test and go home. They don’t even care enough to want to investigate and find out if Jesus really has come. If something that could change the world showed up in your town wouldn’t you be mad if you didn’t take the time to investigate? Or maybe you are just bored—same message, same songs, same old thing year after year. For you it is simply tradition without any life transformation.
There is another way to respond to the stress of the holiday season—adoration. When you see a newborn you think he or she is adorable. When I stood on the valley floor of Yosemite looking at Half Dome and hearing the roar of snow melt fall off the cliffs I was adoring the beauty of that place. Adoration happens when your mind, body, and emotions are caught up together by something amazing. In the church, we call this worship. The Wise Men come and present a baby with gifts fit for a king. They adore him because he is God’s son, the Savior. If God makes you angry, anxious, or apathetic then perhaps you see him primarily as a lawgiver instead of Savior. Feeling duty bound to God produces fear and guilt not adoration. Knowing that God delights in you enough to send his Son produces adoration and leads to a changed life.
Tis the season that can lead you to get angry, anxious, or apathetic because of the assumed laws of the holiday—be happy, buy presents for everyone, make sure you have all the right decorations—or because you think God has not come through for you in the midst of pain, loss, or illness.
During the darkest hours of World War II in England, a gloom swept over the nation as Hitler’s Luftwaffa dropped tons of death and destruction upon London. There was a legitimate fear felt for the safety of the King, George VI, and his family. His staff, therefore, made secret arrangements to transport the king and his family to safety in Canada, for the duration of the war. Despite the urgings of his advisors, George refused to leave his countrymen in their dark hour. Shortly thereafter an incident was reported in a London newspaper in which the king was inspecting a bombed out section of London after an air raid. While walking through the rubble an elderly man walked up to George and said: “You, here, in the midst of this. You are indeed a good King.”
That is what the manger says to us. That God is with us in the tough parts of our lives as well as the good. That he does not desert us in the darkest hour of our despair. He is there in the midst of the rubble of our broken dreams and the ruin of our tangled lives. God came to us!