Every year at this time we seem to be faced with the same issues. There is always the themes of “Keeping Christ in Christmas” and “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”. We seem to constantly face the oh-so-early promotion of Christmas sales and Black Friday has become more than just a day. How does someone, anyone for that matter, keep the right focus during this time of the year?
About a month ago, one of our neighbors in Florida informed all of his neighbors that he was moving back up north to be nearer to his daughter. The first sign that he was serious in this consideration was that he promptly sold his golf cart. He put his house up for sale and, as is typical here, it sold in just a few days. But then all the neighbors got together and planned a good-bye party for him. That party occurred earlier this week. It was a wonderful time of food, fellowship and farewells, celebrated with a lot of neighbors and even some new friends. Interestingly enough, during that two-hour event in the home of one of the widows on our street, I actually spoke with the guest of honor, the fellow who is moving, for no more than five minutes. This party, and my time spent there, had very little to do with my friend and his move.
As we were leaving home of the hostess once the party was winding down, my bride and I were discussing the fact that neither of us had spent much time with our departing friend during the hours we were there. Most of our time had been spent with other friends, talking about other things such as doctor’s appointments and relatives coming to town for Christmas and the like. It was almost as though we did not even need the guest of honor in order to celebrate. Can you imagine what the party would have been like if the guest of honor had not shown up? Or, if we had had a good-bye party and had simply forgotten to whom we were saying good-bye?
Another party occurred some years ago. It was a birthday party of June 3, 2006, for Michael Emmanuel, Jr. It was his sixth birthday and friends and family were celebrating at the local Chuck E. Cheese in Boca Raton, Florida.
The party itself went just fine. The problem came when it was over. All the children and adults climbed into three different vehicles and headed home. Everyone, that is, except Michael.
Apparently, the 6-year-old returned to the play area and when the partygoers departed, he was left behind. Employees found Michael wandering around the restaurant at 10 p.m. and called the police.
Michael’s mother had assumed that her son was staying with his grandmother and didn’t even realize he was missing until the next morning. Unfortunately for Michael (and his mother), it is possible to have a joyful celebration and still forget the guest of honor.
And in a similar vein, the story is told of a wealthy European couple that decided to have their newborn baby baptized in their enormous mansion. Dozens of guests were invited to the elaborate affair, and they all arrived dressed to the nines. After depositing their elegant wraps on a bed in an upstairs room, the guests were entertained royally.
Soon the time came for the main purpose of their gathering: the infant’s baptismal ceremony. But where was the baby? No one seemed to know. The child’s governess ran upstairs and returned with a desperate look on her face. Everyone searched frantically for the baby. Then someone recalled having seen him asleep on one of the beds. The baby was on a bed all right, buried beneath a pile of coats, jackets and furs. The object of that day’s celebration had been forgotten, neglected, and nearly smothered.
You know, the tragedy is that often that same issue happens at Christmas time. The baby whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas is easily hidden beneath the piles of traditions and cultural observances of the season. How often do we celebrate Christmas and never even think of Christ? How many times do we listen to, hum, or even sing Christmas carols and never even think about the message of the songs we sing?
There once was a group of men who were going about their daily tasks of watching the sheep. The sheep they were watching were special sheep. These were the animals to be sacrificed in the temple just a few miles away. In one sense, these shepherds were given a very special job and as is so often the case, perhaps they had lost the goal amidst the task of protecting those sheep from ravenous wolves and locating the wandering lambs, and insuring the sheep all got into the fold safely at night. It is so easy to lose the heavenly in the midst of the mundane, isn’t it?
As we enter the final week of this Advent season, let’s remind ourselves not to forget the guest of honor. We need to enter every Advent season asking, “Where’s the baby?”
In Isaiah 9:6, we read the prophetic words that the baby is coming: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us…” And in Luke 2:11, those words of Isaiah were fulfilled “…for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
So this year, in the midst of all the hubbub that is Christmas, don’t lose the baby!
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor. He can be reached at [email protected]