In researching and writing for the Bible study to go with my painting called “The Message” something new surfaced that I can honestly say has changed my life. Even with the hustle and bustle of the next few days, I hope you will take the time to read this post and sit with it for just an extra moment.
I have shared this thought for the last five years with hundreds of painters for Paint & Praise events during the holidays. But this year it has continued to repeat in my mind over and over. This concept has changed my view of Christmas and other special events. Maybe, just maybe God will use it to bring into focus the concept of Emmanuel – God with us for you this season.
I have read the Christmas story in scripture many times. I have heard sermons and read books and watched movies and videos of the amazing moment when God became man and lived in our midst. It is real and amazing and world changing. It is wonderful and oh so familiar, which makes this revelation even more special to me.
Let’s think back onto this beautiful story of Love coming down and becoming present in our world. Young Mary – so pregnant, certainly uncomfortable, probably a little scared has traveled with Joseph, her betrothed for many difficult miles. Most of those miles she has probably walked and a few possibly spent riding on a donkey. They arrive in Bethlehem and the town is overcrowded, loud, and bursting at the seams with people there for the census. Everyone is busy, stressed, and in a tizzy of activity.
They arrive at what could have been Joseph’s family home to find that there is not a single room available. Every bed is full, there are mats and blankets and pallets in every open spot. As I looked around my Mom’s house today, I think it is a very similar situation. It is amazing and wonderful and loud and chaotic and I wouldn’t change a thing. But, if another family member came to the door today, (and I would love it if they did), we would have to be very creative with where they slept. Their bed might have to be on the kitchen counter or the table. You get the idea. For Mary, possibly in the throws of labor when they arrived, the best possible place for them (and only one available) was the area that housed the animals. You see, it might be more quiet there and certainly there would be more privacy give birth to a child.
I share all this in order to get to a point that I had never considered….when Jesus was born, where were all the people? It’s as if they were given a place and then forgotten. Surely the townspeople noticed this young girl about to give to birth to a baby coming into town and desperately trying to find someplace to stay. Surely the gossip mill had already sent waves of words and opinions across this busy town. A baby was born…and it was a boy. That’s usually a pretty special thing, right? So, I ask it again, where were the people?
Now, maybe there was a crowd of people who came by to see the new baby. Maybe there was a line of people waiting to hold him or wish his parents well. But you take a look in scripture as I have. Do you see any mention of that in scripture? I don’t. When this thought and realization came to me it took my breath away.
The Son of God, actually God in flesh, the Light of the world, Creator of the Universe, the Messiah had come in the form of a baby and no one noticed. Let that sink in for a minute. No one noticed.
God was with them – Emmanuel. There was an opportunity to gaze into the eyes of the Creator and no one came. Oh to have reached out and felt the grasp of those tiny fingers. But no one did. The cry of a newborn baby who was the fulfillment of all of the prophecies they had studied their entire lives was right there, in a stable, in their own town, and they missed it. How is that possible?
Could it be that they were all just too busy? There were people to see, beds to provide, meals to prepare, places to go, taxes to pay, houses to clean, and a to do list that kept growing. So self absorbed in all the seemingly important things of the day that they missed – the most important thing.
Now, before we get too judgmental, let’s think for a moment. Today is Christmas Eve, but this could really apply to any ordinary day for most of us. We have a to do list. There are people to see, places to go, beds to provide, a house to clean, meals to prepare, 3 kids in three different extra curricular activities, possibly a church service/or several church services, there have already been 4 other important church events and 3 parties. The turkey is thawing, there is one last present that needs to be purchased, the kids and grandkids are coming. It is a good chaos, but crazy nonetheless.
Hear this…Christ has come. He is here. We know the story and it has a deep and abiding meaning to us. But have we made room? As a follower of Jesus, we have made room for Him in our hearts. But are we like the people of Bethlehem who provided a room and then got so busy with life that they forgot He was even there? Have we been so absorbed with the important things that we have left out – the most important thing?
Have you seen Him? Have you stopped today to gaze into the eyes of Jesus? Have you reached out to touch the hand of God? Have you made room in your heart, in your family, in your home for Jesus? Have I?
I don’t want to be like the people of Bethlehem. I don’t want to miss the total fulfillment of all the prophecies. I don’t want to miss Jesus. Oh dear God, I don’t want to miss Jesus.
So, on this Christmas Eve and all the following days leading into the new year and through the years to come, may we never again allow ourselves to get so busy with important things that we miss – the most important thing of all time – and His name is Jesus.
May we gaze into His eyes today. Read His story and talk about Him with our children. Sit at the foot of the manger and recall all the wondrous things He has done in our lives. May we see the never ending love of God for us wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
And when the fullness of time came, God sent His son….
My prayer for all of us is that we pause – Look for Jesus and go to Him. As a Christian, it’s not a very far journey but the road may not be very travelled. Write your Christmas story and be present in the scene at the manger. Be present and involved and grateful for the most precious gift the world has ever been given; Jesus Christ.
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