Four Responses to Christmas
13:24 "But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 13:25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 13:26 Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory. 13:27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. 13:28 "From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 13:29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 13:30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 13:31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 13:32 "But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 13:33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 13:34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 13:35 Therefore, keep awake--for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 13:36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you, I say to all – Keep awake.
This past week I made a serious error. Blunder of blunders - I went to Fayette Mall in Lexington to do some Christmas shopping. I had not been there in a while; so I thought I would try the adventure. I attempted to find a place to park, but ended up parking about 12 miles from the entrance.
Entering the glass doors of the mall, I discovered people everywhere - wall to wall, store to store. Getting through the sections where people ate was impossible. I heard retail clerks saying to one another how rude, angry, and impatient some customers were. “Yeah,” said one clerk to another, “what a joyful season.”
With the pressures of the holidays, we can easily become disenchanted with the so-called joyful season. Yet, let us not forget Christmas is not about giving presents, it is about being present.
When my son was in elementary school, one day before Christmas break, his class had what they called a Father’s visiting day. The children were to bring their dads to the classroom and tell what their dads did for a living. Few fathers came because many had to work. The teacher asked each child what their father did. One child said, “My father is a lawyer;” another said, “he owns a store;” another said, “he works at the bank.” Thus, each child spoke until the teacher came to one child and asked, “What does your daddy do?” The boy did not know exactly what to say, until he looked over at his dad, who was one of the few fathers present in the classroom. Finally, to answer the teacher’s question, the boy said: “My daddy… Well, my daddy is here!”
With these words, a world of truth was told - “My daddy is here.” That’s the truth of Christmas - “My God is here.”
If, like the retail clerks at Fayette Mall, you are weary of the commercial aspect of the holidays, let me offer you four faithful responses to Christmas.
First, respond by being responsible. God became a child so we would act like adults being responsible. H. Richard Niebuhr, the famous theologian, wrote a book entitled “The Responsible Self.” His thesis emphasizes our need to respond to the acts of God by being responsible towards others and ourselves.
How do we act responsibly? We hold up our corner. Do you recall the biblical story of the paralyzed man who was carried by his friends to Jesus to be healed? If there had not been four friends, the paralyzed man would probably not have been carried to Jesus. Why? Because it took a person on each of the four corners to carry their friend to be healed. They became responsible by holding up their corner of the pallet. We become responsible today by holding up our corner, our part of what is going on in our side of the world. Unless we hold up our corner, the world collapses.
The second way to respond is by being strong. The world needs strong people who can take the blows of life and stand back up. The world needs people who are strong in their conscience, who are strong enough to act on their conscience, even when it is unpopular.
Thirdly, respond by being mature in your thinking. Christians should use their brains whether they are reading the Bible, talking theology, or doing ethics. Don’t accept what others tell you, but search for the truth yourself. Not everyone will agree with you. Yet, the mark of a mature person is someone who can love someone and still disagree with them. What good is it to love only those who are like us and think like us? Anyone can do that. Christians through the centuries have always disagreed. To be mature in your thinking is our third response.
The fourth and final response is to be joyful. Friedrich Nietzsche, the philosopher, once said, “Christians should look more redeemed.” Why are we lacking in joy? Is it because we are Christians, or because we are not sufficiently Christian?
The late Erma Bombeck, who wrote some famously funny newspaper columns and books, told about a little boy who was sitting in the pew in front of here in church. The boy was not noisy, but every so often he turned around and smiled and waved at the people around him in church. He did this several times until his mother jerked him, sat him in the pew, and told him to stop grinning. After all, he was in church. His mother said: “That’s better.”
Most of us have been through such experiences in church. Yet, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could have the spontaneity and joy of the child in church? “Christians should look more redeemed.”
So, let’s get down to the real business of Christmas by responding to the gift of the Christ child by being responsible, strong, mature, and joyful. Amen!
(Copyright 2017 by Jack Hughes Robinson. Use by permission only.)