The Sunday before Christmas...
All around the world, churches were celebrating, and the Birthday Boy couldn’t have been more thrilled.
Banners hung on millions of walls, announcing news of the season. Unto us a Child is Born...Jesus is the Reason for the Season... Joy to the World. Some carefully and artistically hand-painted, some stitched, some stenciled, and some scribbled by eager children only beginning to understand the story of baby Jesus, born in a stable, two thousand years ago.
Christmas carols rang out from congregations and choirs everywhere. O Little Town of Bethlehem, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Away in a Manger... Despite the various melodies and words and pitches, the sound was beautiful, blending together in perfect harmony. Even the voices that couldn’t carry an earthly tune were music to His ears. The Birthday Boy closed His eyes and reveled in the praise. The people He died for were celebrating His birth.
Every pastor in every pulpit proclaimed a Christmas message – they mentioned the shepherds, the wise men, the star, the angels, the stable, the innkeeper. Each presentation was different, yet each was filled with hope. Joy. Peace. Promise. The people nodded and shouted “Amen!” They opened their Bibles to the book of Luke and reread the Christmas story. And their hearts swelled with love and awe for the miracle of the virgin birth.
Altars were packed. People responded to the message, the songs, the spirit of the Christmas story and what it meant for them. They cried out in thanksgiving, lifting their hands in holy surrender to the newborn King. They committed their hearts, rededicated their lives, and praised God for sending His only Son to earth.
The Birthday Boy cried tears of joy. It was a birthday celebration to remember.
Kids woke early and ran to the living room, eager to see what Santa had brought them. Mothers and fathers dragged themselves from bed and guzzled coffee as they watched their children tear into the stockings that were stuffed and overflowing with toys and electronics and CD’s and clothes and jewelry and perfume and DVD’s and useless things that would never be used for anything other than collecting dust.
Clothes were strewn over beds. Frustrated mothers yelled at their kids and forced them to wear red and green sweaters and fancy dresses and tights and uncomfortable shoes to impress grandparents and other family members they haven’t seen all year.
Kitchens were bustling. Ovens were heated, cookies and pies and casseroles covered the counters. Women everywhere were beginning to focus on cooking and baking and entertaining their guests.
Families gathered, arriving with arms full of desserts and boxes of presents, taking three trips to unload their trunks. Over plates heaped with food, they talked about themselves. About how they hated their jobs, the failing economy, sports, the latest television shows, the problems they were having with their kids and how stressed out they were.
Gifts were piled under the tree and extended halfway into the room. Kids eagerly looked for their names on the tags and shook each gift, guessing its contents. One by one, the presents were opened. Four hours later, wrapping paper blanketed the floor and toddlers were cranky and whiny. Teenagers complained about not getting the video game they wanted and adults quietly asked for receipts so they could return gifts they wouldn’t use or didn’t like. Feelings were hurt because gifts weren’t appreciated – all that shopping for nothing.
People left their parties with a sense of regret and at the same time, relief. The day was over - the holidays gone for another year. Now they could put the decorations away, find a place for all the new stuff and get back to their normal routines. They drove home, rehashing the events of the day and they fell into bed, exhausted.
And at the end of the day, the Birthday Boy cried again. But this time the joy wasn't there.
On Sunday it had been all about Him. Today, it was about everything but Him.
Parties were wonderful, families were to be treasured and food enjoyed. Giving and receiving gifts was certainly a beautiful thing. Everything needed for a perfect Christmas celebration was there.
Except Jesus. He was forgotten, replaced with the cares of the world.
He should have been used to it, but his heart ached. He longed for the joy and excitement and love He had witnessed in church to carry over to Christmas Day. His birthday.
Maybe next year...
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