george_hancockstefanDid anyone in Nazareth knew that Joseph and Mary belonged to the royal line of David? Did this belonging (if it was known) help him get more customers for his carpentry shop? While one can argue that if they had arrived earlier to Bethlehem, they might have found a better place to stay than the stable; the fact that they brought a pair of turtledoves or a pair of pigeons to the Temple indicates that they belonged to the poor class.  Moreover, one can argue that in addition to a couple of invitations from rich people, Jesus primarily lived with the poor Galilean folk.

A friend of mine, who is a well-known New Testament scholar, argues that even today God is performing many miracles around the world, but very few people in the Western world believe it.  His argument is that because we consider ourselves to live in the post-Enlightenment era, we do not believe that miracles can happen.  When we are sick, our first thought is to go to the doctor. But millions of Christians around the world who do not have doctors start praying for God’s healing. (This is not to say that God does not use medical doctors in healing; instead it indicates where our thoughts go first in a medical crisis).

The marginal folk in the Temple – Simeon and Anna – were waiting in prayer for God to appear to them.   Both of them were elderly – Anna was 84 years old. She became a widow after seven years of marriage. If, on average, Jewish girls married by the time they were fourteen, it means that she was in the temple worshipping the Lord for over sixty years. Simeon was promised by the Holy Spirit that he will not taste death until he sees the Redeemer of Israel.  The day when Jesus was brought into the Temple, he knew this Child was the one.

When I read these texts, it surprises me that many mighty people did not see Jesus.  There was the high priest who never saw Jesus, even though Jesus was in the Temple.  Herod was in Jerusalem, and mightily disturbed when the Magi came.  Jesus was in the Temple and none of the higher ups came to meet Him. For them, it looked like any other poor family coming to bring their small sacrifices to the Temple because God has blessed their lives with a son.

I thought about what would happen if a woman gave birth today on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. How many people would stop for a moment and look at the fact that a baby has arrived in our world? How many would consider an unfortunate nuisance, an interruption to their day?

I was recently listening to a group of college students talking about their plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  One mentioned that a friend of theirs was given money to travel to London and Paris but that is not what they wanted to do.  They wanted to be with their parents, but the parents had other trips in mind and the children were not welcome to come along.  As they were sharing, another student remarked, “And the only thing that I was offered by my parents was to come home!”

As you celebrate Christmas, you will not find the Baby Jesus in the luxury trips to Las Vegas or Atlantic City (even though they advertise “come and spend Christmas (Holidays) with us”) or on the slopes of Aspen, where they have the best advertised snow. However, you may find him among those considered marginal – if you open a box of a few small toys with an orphan, hold hands with an elderly person in a retirement room, or listen to a group of children singing a carol in the cold winter night.

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Rev. Dr. George Hancock-Stefan

George Hancock-Stefan

Pastor George Hancock-Stefan completed 30 years as the pastor of the great congregation at Central Baptist Church in Atlantic Highlands in 2020. Those 30 years have been a blessed time for him, his wife...