We had two different worship services on 12-15 at LMPC. One was the “Lessons and Carols” Service.? The other was the SunUp service.
The SunUp service had the sermon, “The Ones Who Missed Christmas.”? by Dr. Sloan.
?The Ones Who Missed Christmas? Lk. 2:4-7;? Mt. 2:1-8; Luke 2:1-7? 12/13-13 LMPC by Dr. Sloan
The world is full of stories of missed opportunities.? Maybe you remember that Art Linkletter is involved in establishing a Planetarium in South Carolina.? Perhaps that event was inspired by one of the most amazing stories of missed opportunities.?? One day a man named Walter was taking his friend on a ride in the country in California.? He showed him a large field out in the middle of nowhere with some horses grazing.? Walter told his friend, ?I am going to build a park here and people will travel hundreds of miles just to come to it.?? I can handle the investment on the park myself, but the land around the park will go up hundreds of times to accommodate restaurants, hotels, and shops.? Wouldn?t you be willing to invest in this venture?? The man looked at his friend, and thought he was crazy and declined.? The two men talking were Walt Disney and Art Linkletter. ?Today I want us to think about the people who miss the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in its fullness.
Who misses Christmas?? Maybe the one in the armed services far away from home- but Christmas can even be celebrated on a battlefield or missionfield.? Maybe the one who is going through grief- but in some ways, knowing Christ has come can help in times of grief.? The two kinds of people who miss Christmas I know of are those who do not believe in the Christ of Christmas, and those who believe but do not act on their belief.
There was an article in this week?s Presbyterian Outlook about those who declare no religious affiliation at all.? That number has climbed since the 1990 census from 8% to 14%- a significant jump.? What is Christmas to someone who has no religious meaning?? It is the things they are telling us in schools and in the media.? Christmas is a winter holiday, it is snowmen, reindeer, sleighs?that never made too much sense to me- as we only get snow on Christmas here about once every fifty years.? Christmas is kind of a celebration of winter solstice, but that is not a whole lot to celebrate.? Perhaps Christmas to them is shopping, buying, gift giving and receiving and Santa.? This is perhaps the most emotional part of Christmas- the one that causes the greatest headaches, traffic, lines, credit card regrets, ulcers, sibling rivalry, as well as smiles, happiness, and excitement.? Christmas, should be much deeper than that.? Life should be much deeper than that as well.? For some people life is simply about the changing of seasons and years as well as what they get and are able to give.
There were non-believers that first Christmas too.? Herod was a typical one.? Herod has palaces- a huge one overlooking little Bethlehem.? He had all the wealth the world could afford and had the favor of Rome.? Herod wanted to be on the throne, and he didn?t want anyone else there.? Herod was guilty of murdering at least three of his own sons and a wife for fear they would take the throne from him.? He had the leaders of Jerusalem imprisoned right before his death with orders to kill them when he died so that someone would mourn on the day he died.? Herod desperately wanted to be king of his world.? Today there are many like Herod who don?t mind acknowledging Jesus as a teacher, or a preacher, or even a prophet?but they don?t want to acknowledge Jesus as their king.? They want the throne of their hearts and do not what Jesus wants them to do, but to do whatever they want to do.? Pride will keep many from acknowledging the birth of the king.? But whether we acknowledge it or not, He will reign forever and ever.
In Herod?s efforts to preserve his kingship, he sent his soldiers to put the babies in Bethlehem to death. Today there are people who still try to persecute those who believe France says that Muslim and Jews cannot wear their headdress and Christians must limit the size of crosses worn on their necks in order to preserve ?France as a secular state.?? I wonder what makes the secularization of France so sacrosanct??? I stand in fear of what drives people to persecute others as Herod did.? We should never forget that the Puritans, the Pilgrims, the Hugenots and in large measure the Presbyterians came to America to escape religious persecution.
There were also those who believed in God, yet missed the coming of Christ.? All the religious leaders missed the coming.? We see shepherds, wise men, angels, but where were the priests, and the godly men and women of the day?? The priests told Herod about the scripture verse in Micah 5:2 that said the messiah would be born in Bethlehem, but they did not go to see for themselves!? Bethlehem is within walking distance of Jerusalem, and easy walking distance from Herod?s palace near Bethlehem.? Why did these religious leaders not come to worship the messiah who had been prophesied since Moses? day??? Apparently they believed the prophecies.? Maybe they were waiting on the wise men to come back and give a report.? But if they really believed, it seems to me they would act on their belief and go with the wise men.?? The religious leaders of their day have something that is very prevalent in our society too?indifference.? They didn?t think it mattered if they went to worship Jesus or not.? Herod knew the messiah was coming- he was proud, but these people just didn?t bother.? They didn?t think they needed a Savior.
There were also people who missed Christmas because of their being so busy.? I think of the innkeeper and the people of Bethlehem. ?The census was going on, and people were piling into Bethlehem.? Jesus was born right there.? But they were too busy.? There are many who will pass twenty churches on their way to Harbisson, but will not stop in to honor the One who inspired gift giving with the Greatest Gift.? Giving without meaning can lead to materialism and being overwhelmed in debt. But if we give from the heart, then it is the heart that counts- and that keeps the emptiness of Christmas away.
There is a terrible aloneness to the Christmas story.? Usually the Jews were very hospitable, but this time they were too busy, too full to be hospitable to this pregnant woman.? Usually midwives accompanied a woman at the time of her birth.? Yet there is no record of a midwife here.? Mary brought forth her child, she wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and she laid him in a manger.? No one helped her in her time of need.? It is beautiful that Mary cared so much, but it is tragic that no one cared for her or helped her even simply as a human being much less as the mother of the messiah.
One of the great lessons that many Christians have caught is that Christmas is a time to help those we know who are in need, and even make an extra effort to try to know the needs of those around us.? God forbid that we at least not make an effort to care for those in need at Christmas.? Yet it is easy to see Christmas simply as a time to party or a time for family and not as a time to care for those who are in need, remembering this first Christmas and its most holy yet needy family.
Another type of person that missed Christmas is the family of Joseph and Mary.? Today, if your brother or sister or relative was about to have a baby, wouldn?t you want to know or help?? Tradition says that both Joseph and Mary were of the line and family of David.? They probably had many relatives there?though also many would claim to be of the kingly line.? But surely some cousins, or aunts or uncles came to Bethlehem too and were able to help.? Bethlehem was full of their relatives- from the same tribe, from the same subtribe, from the same clan.? There is no record of their help.? If those relatives only knew that their cousins were having the messiah that night, surely they would have helped Mary in her time of need, and surely they would have bowed in worship to the Christ child!? Maybe they were too familiar with Joseph and Mary.? Maybe they were thinking- here?s my carpenter relative who didn?t have much of an education, didn?t have much money, and can?t or won?t do much in life.? Maybe they were too familiar with Joseph and Mary.? Perhaps they knew them so well that they could not believe they were anyone special.? The people of Nazareth were in the same shape.? When Jesus first got up to preach they heard him and at first were awestruck.? But then they put their awe in check and said, ?Isn?t this Jesus the carpenter?s son??? Today there are people who grow up in Christian homes, who are taught the faith, and have heard the stories of the church until they feel they don?t need to hear them any more.? They expect nothing special from them.? It is a sad thing to know all about Christ but not know Him because we feel we don?t need Him or expect anything from Him. ?It is sad to miss Christmas because we yawn at the miraculous when it is right before our eyes!
In the end it is the pride of Herod wanting to be king that kept him from Christmas.? It was the pride of the religious leaders in their indifference that kept them from celebrating that first Christmas.? It was the pride of the innkeeper thinking his business was more important than his soul that kept him from Christmas.? It was the pride of the family of Joseph and Mary in their familiarity that kept them from missing Christmas.? Christmas is a time to humble ourselves and bow down in belief and awe.? Don?t miss Christmas this year.? Amen.