(December 19, 1990)
Hardly any snow, busy schedule filled with term paper due dates and final exams, now all of a sudden it is Christmas. We only had a couple of weekends to prepare, and I don’t think anyone will get any cards this year. It just doesn’t seem like the holidays should happen right away. Why did I think Christmas would wait until I was ready for it?
So, other people are caught off guard too. Some won’t have much of a celebration, like the soldiers in the Middle East. Some families will be entangled in crisis situations and others will not care at all about Christmas, either indifference or a different holiday to celebrate.
In fact, there were a lot of people caught off guard that first Christmas too. While the date is debatable, the occasion is not; a child WAS born in a manger and His birth WAS announced several hundred years before it happened. Still, not everyone was ready.
Almost no one. Mary had to be ready. There is something about being pregnant that allows no procrastination. When a baby decides to be born, who can stop it? Joseph would have preferred this all happen at home. Who wants to take his pregnant wife on a donkey ride when she is nine months along? But they had been summoned to Bethlehem for a census... so Jesus could be born there, just as had been prophesied hundreds of years before.
When they arrived, the no one had room for company. They were not ready for Jesus. But there was a spare room of sorts. A stable, smelly as it likely was, made a better delivery room than out in the streets. The owner of the stable didn’t celebrate the birth though. As far as we know, he didn’t even know it happened.
There were some shepherds that were not ready either. We can tell by their fear. When the angels came to announce “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men,” these fellows nearly had heart attacks from fright. They handled the news well though. They hurried to Bethlehem to see what was going on. Out of all the unprepared people, they handled the event better than most of us do... “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them” (Luke 2:20).
The Magi were ready. They knew the prophecies, they prepared gifts fit for a king, wrapped them, and as soon as they saw the star, headed out to find the Christ child. Even though it took them a while to get there and they missed the main event, it was better late than never.
Herod was not ready though, at least not to celebrate. He was threatened by the Magi’s announcement that they were seeking the One to be born “king of the Jews” so he cowardly murdered all the children two years old and under in hopes of getting rid of this “king” that might take over his throne.
Getting back to right now, I guess I am more ready than I thought. Jesus entered my life with peace and good will in the early seventies, so whether His actual birth date is December 25 or not, I can glorify and praise God for all that I have heard and seen of Him since then. I didn’t know the prophecies as a young Christian, yet now, as I read them, I’m still amazed at the accuracy of their fulfilment.
As for gifts, the Bible doesn’t say He wants our gold, frankincense or myrrh. Instead, He offers us His gift: Himself, and with that, forgiveness and eternal life. Are we ready for that? If so, He wants one gift in return, with no wrappings. It is the submission of our lives -- the most important giving we could ever do, at Christmas or any other time.