Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Unbelieving at Christmas

It should not really surprise us that Joseph's family would make no room for him and his pregnant bride-to-be; to be pregnant out of wedlock was a tremendous dishonor in the Jewish culture, the mark of a whore, a real moral conundrum that no good, God-fearing Jew wanted any part of. And of course, we have no record of the angel Gabriel explaining any of it to the extended family. Just Mary and Joseph. 

Which means that part of the reason that they found themselves pushed toward the crowded inn was that they had a Christmas story that their family didn't share. They knew something the others didn't know. They believed in something that no one else was willing to believe.

This is, I think, the Christmas story in all of our houses; I know it is in mine.

Everyone comes to Christmas with their own version of what the holiday means. Some come with their focus on Bethlehem, on the Christ child, on the Promise. Some come with hope and joy in their hearts. Some come thinking of snow and fireplaces and cuddling with loved ones in the glow of the tree. Some come with expectations of presents and all the new things they're going to get. Some come with their eyes on the children, wanting to make sure that this season never loses its magic for the little ones.

Some come with empty stomachs and big plates, ready to dive in to all the Christmas ham and cookies. Some come for the chance to see family they only see this time of year. Some come for decorations and lights and all the wrappings and trimmings of the season. Some even come just for tradition, because this is what we do.

It would be nice if we all came believing in Christ at Christmas, longing for Him, waiting for Him, hoping for Him, worshiping Him, but that's just not the way it is. Not this year, not any year. Not even the first year.

I wonder sometimes how it would change Christmas for us if we all came this way, not just my family, but your family, our family, our churches, our communities. But as I think about that first Christmas, I recognize how many stories there were about what was happening in that barn. Joseph's family had a story that didn't have anything at all to do with Christ. The innkeeper had a story, but we don't know how much he knew. The guests at the inn, who must have heard the commotion, had a story. The shepherds had a story. The wise men had a story. The king had a story. Everyone had a story, but how many of those stories knew for real the heart of Christmas that first night in Bethlehem?

How would it change our Christmas if they had recognized what they had? If they had known the real story that was unfolding right there in their midst?

How would it change our Christmas if, then or now, everyone believed in the babe at the center of it all? 

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