December 20, 1994
Christmas cards often feature an artist’s version of the Christmas story. Some show Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem where Jesus would be born. Others depict the couple under a bright star or in a manger scene adoring their newborn Son.
Many cards have bells, candles, snow scenes, poinsettias or symbols traditionally associated with this time of year. Others feature cartoon characters, fat or skinny Santas, or people involved in wintertime activities. I haven’t done a survey but a good percentage of December’s greeting cards do not use the word “Christmas.”
While there is nothing wrong with sending someone “Season’s Greetings,” “Happy Holidays” and wishes for a “Bright New Year,” this makes me wonder how many folks either prefer to ignore the Christmas story or refuse to celebrate the birth of Christ. Obviously some welcome a holiday but prefer Jesus be left out of the picture.
What is it about the birth of this child that offends some people? Why would card companies produce lines that are clearly Christmas cards yet have nothing on them to indicate the reason we celebrate this holiday?
The story itself gives some clues. Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem to register for a new tax. When they arrived, the small town was filled with others who were there for the same reason. If hotel keepers in Israel 2000 years ago were like some innkeepers today, they might have put a bed in a closet or a storage room rather than turn away a woman nine months pregnant, but that did not happen. Perhaps the innkeeper didn’t think of it. Perhaps he didn’t want the inconvenience. Whatever his attitude, many people today respond toward Jesus Christ in those ways. If He is not welcomed and made room for, He is turned away because inviting Him into their lives would be an inconvenience.
After Jesus was about two years old, some wise men were looking for Him. These were ancient magi or “king-makers” from Persia who had seen his star. How did they know this was a significant child? Centuries before, a young Jewish man, Daniel, had been taken captive by the Babylonians. By his wisdom, he earned the respect of the “wise men” of the day. He may have told them about his God and God’s promise of a coming King.
When the descendants of those wise men came to see this little child, they brought gifts. Gold, frankincense and myrrh were unusual presents for a baby but not at all strange for a boy who would someday be king. They gladly bowed in worship at the side of this baby’s bed.
However, there was another king had no intention of worshiping Him. The Roman leader Herod, heard about the magi and about Jesus. Would he lose his throne to a Jew? For him, the child was a threat. He gave orders to his soldiers and they put to death all boy babies under the age of two.
Today’s responses to the baby Jesus is also like the responses of these men of authority. Some recognize Him as the promised King of kings and gladly worship Him. Others see Him as a threat to their power and try to get rid of Him. That could even include a deliberate removal of His name from holiday greeting cards, an industry that likely would not exist if Herod had succeeded in killing the Christ child.
There is another reason that some people want to forget about this baby born in a cow barn. He did not remain a baby. He grew to manhood, turned water into wine, healed the sick, fed multitudes, walked on water, and gave sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf. At first, everyone loved Him; they liked being healed and getting free food, but eventually Jesus claimed to be God and this changed their minds.
God in a manger? Forget it, they said... our God would never lower Himself to that! They were so angry at His claim that they did what Herod tried to do and put Him to death.
In dying, Jesus proved His claim was true. As Peter told the multitudes, “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross. But God raised Him from the dead... because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.”
The innkeeper did not prevent Jesus from being born. Herod could not kill Him. Those who rejected His claim to be God put Him on a cross and into a tomb but the One who is eternal life could not stay dead. What makes anyone now think ignoring Him on Christmas cards will make the “inconvenience” or “problem” of Christ go away and disappear?