george hancockstefanI have come to the conclusion that around Christmas time we Christians complain too much.  There is this ideal Christmas celebration that we talk about which probably took place one time and the older we get the more distant it becomes.  Or it never took place, and we keep expanding its fantasy.

One of the descriptive phrases in our complaining is the hustle and the bustle of the world. We hope that the world will stand still and appreciate what we do.  We hope that the Main Street, the Wall Street, and the Mall Street will all come to a stop and admire what we do.  We hope that on Sundays, more people will be in our churches than in our local malls.  We hope that non-Christians will stop complaining about our Nativities/crèches that we want to place in the center of our towns.  We hope that there will be no Hindu celebration of lights or a Menorah in the White House because it takes from the centrality of what we do.  After all, someone, somewhere, told us that this is a Christian nation. We hope that we will have larger houses and larger Christmas trees to be able to place all our Christmas ornaments which now either fill one room or the entire attic. 

I was then thinking of that First Christmas. Did Mary say to Joseph, “Honey, your plan stinks!?  This is not the time to travel to Bethlehem.  I know that you are of royal family and you proudly recite your genealogy, but how come we are traveling on this donkey! Many of your cousins are Zealots, but now because of someone by the name of Quirinius, all of them are doing exactly like he said. They are brave when they are in their fields talking with one another, but not when the edict is being proclaimed from our street corners.”

Or did the angels complain that they did not have a better audience when they gave their concert on the fields of Bethlehem?  The choir directors and musicians of the Temple were not present.  One could not see the “who is who” in the arts, music, and the academy. Their entire audience was shepherds, who were not known for their musical degrees, so that they could appreciate what an angelic choir can do!

The Good News is not the complaining news about what the world is doing when God enters human history in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. God did not stop anything when His Son was born. He did not stop the hotel businesses in Bethlehem that were in their peak season so that there was no place for the weary travelers from Nazareth. God did not stop the Roman census from being taken so that Mary and Joseph could travel at a different time.  He did not even stop the Magi from making that wrong turn that infuriated King Herod.

God comes and gently invites us to join Him in the festivities of His arrival.  It is not the preparations that are important, but His presence – Emmanuel – God with us. He comes where the stable hands are working; he comes by the shores of our rivers, lakes, and oceans. He comes in our factories, schools, and churches.  He comes and joins us in everything that we are doing. As he spends time with us, we recognize that we are in the presence of the Holy One who has become one of us. He came to give us Himself.