Are You Too Busy for Jesus?
Introduction: The Forgotten Guest of Honor
An unknown author commenting on Luke 2:7 said this in a paragraph entitled: "Still No Room" :
Because there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2:7). Not long ago a professor of psychology in one of our great universities gave a word-suggestion test to his class of forty students. He instructed them to write the word "Christmas," and all the class did so. "Now," said the professor, "write after the word `Christmas' the first thought that flashes through your mind regarding that day." When the papers were turned in, such answers were given as "tree." "holly," "mistletoe," "presents," "turkey," "holiday," "carols," and "Santa Claus," but not one had written, "the birthday of Jesus."
It may be argued easily that the account of God the Son, Jesus Christ, coming to earth and becoming a man, is the most important event in the history of mankind. Yet today, that story has become to many, just a small part of the celebration that we call Christmas. And to far too many individuals, it isn't a part of this holiday at all. We fight in the United States every year as to whether or not we should say simply: "Happy holidays!" or "Merry Christmas!" However, many of the same people who don't want others to forget the reason for the season are often those who forget it by their actions rather than by their words.
When thinking about the Christmas holidays we have our traditions that include family, the giving of gifts and sharing of meals with those who are close to us. And there is nothing inherently wrong with these things if they don't become the center of our celebration.
But sadly for many, even Christians, Christmas means maxing out credit cards in order to pay for presents that you can't afford, to give to children, or adults, things that they will stop playing with by the end of January. While I have nothing against the giving of presents, I do have a problem with the commercialism of a day that should be seen as a sacred and holy time of year whose very celebration should point to the One who came to this earth to die for the sins of the world and bring mankind back to God.
Jesus Christ is like the forgotten guest of honor at His own birthday celebration. He sits in the corner or is displayed as a baby in a manger under the Christmas tree, while the minds of those who set up the tree are wondering how they are going to get everything done before December 25th.
It is a busy world in the 21st century in which we live. Many people don't think that they have time for the Christ of Christmas. And they go about their day as if nothing special happened more than 2000 years ago now. But that isn't anything new. Jesus came into a world that didn't know what they had encountered by his birth, even as it was happening. As a matter of fact, most went about their business as if it were any other night in history. For the most part, no one knew and no one cared.
Let's look a little more closely into the story to see what types of people didn't recognize the Christ child for who he was and then look at those people to whom the Lord chose to reveal Christ's true identity.
I. The People Distracted by False Religion
The first type of people who didn't realize who or what Jesus was were those distracted by false religion.
Like, the world in which we are living today, the time of Jesus' birth was quite complicated. Mary and Joseph were living in a world where the Jewish leaders were leading the people of Israel farther away from the God who saved them out of Egypt centuries earlier. The nation was existing under the rule of the Roman empire, and many were fuming and wanting to break free of Roman oppression.
The Gentile world around the people of Israel was made up of a bunch of polytheists or believers in many gods. That was true both in the Roman and the Greek cultures that surrounded them. But except for a few devout believers such as Joseph, Mary, as well as others, such as Simeon, and Anna, who are talked about later in this chapter, very few of the Jews were really following God as they should. The Apostle John says: "He came unto His own and His own did not receive Him... (John 1:11).
To be fair, most, if not all, devout Jews were looking for a Messiah to deliver Israel but they were mixed about whom he would be or from what He was to deliver Israel.
The Talmud taught this:
“All the prophets prophesied only of the days of Messiah,” and “the world was created only for Messiah.”
From this sentence, we can see that the Jews saw predictions of the Messiah throughout Scripture.
The Jews of Jesus day also held to such things as the pre-existence of Messiah, his elevation over Moses and even his elevation above the angels. They believed in his representative character, his sufferings and his death for his people.
Many also taught of his redemption and restoration of Israel and other things like this. However, some couldn't understand a Messiah who would both suffer and die and also restore the people, so they actually believed that there would be two Messiahs- the suffering one and the one who would triumph over the enemies of Israel.
What the rabbis of Israel, for the most part, didn't understand was how the Messiah came to take away sin through His suffering. They had a flawed idea of sin and it distracted them from the real reason that Jesus came. They did not believe in the doctrine of original sin which is the fact that we are all born sinners with a sin nature.
The Jewish teachers thus overlooked the need for a suffering messiah to bear the penalty for sins because of this wrong view. And thus they didn't fully understand God's holiness. What many did teach was that there was a good impulse in man and an evil one. And they believed that both were given by God. Because of this, very little blame came to be attached for the sin in man-it was God's fault.
Because of all of these things, the Jewish leaders taught that it was within the power of each individual to overcome sin and to gain life by study and works. It wasn't up to the messiah to do these things. What they were looking for was a political figure who would deliver them.
So it was into this religious environment that our Lord first came. Here is what an unnamed author from the website bible.org has to say about this time:
"Israel was spiritually bankrupt. It was a time of external religiosity, pharisaic letterism and formalism, and Sadducean unbelief. Like much of America today, Israel was caught up with materialism, with human good deeds, and with ritual. There was a form of godliness, but they denied the power thereof. They were practical atheists—living as though God were dead or as though He were non-existent.
And so, it was into these conditions that Christ was born to deliver us from religion, from human philosophy, from materialism—indeed from sin and from all its forms."
II. The People Distracted by Worldly Affairs (1-7)
Another major distraction that must have kept the average person from recognizing the entrance of the Lord of the universe into the world was the everyday matters of life. They were distracted by worldly affairs.
Jesus was born in the days of Ceasar Agustus when Quirinius was the governor of Syria (1,2). The Ceasar of that time was Octavian who was the grand-nephew, adopted son and the primary heir to Julius Ceasar. Before Octavius, there was constant war and power struggles. After he defeated his last known rival and ascended to the throne in 31 B.C. he brought about what has become commonly known as the 'Pax Romana', which translated means 'The Peace of Rome.'
At last, those who had been so troubled by war and upheaval could live in more relative safety from invasion. They could also go down the great Roman roads that were created by the empire in the years following the peace. All in all, they were years of great prosperity.
In fact, Octavian was so well thought of by the Roman senate that they declared him the first emperor. And two years later they gave him the title 'Augustus' meaning 'Exalted One.' This term signified a religious veneration.
The result of all this prosperity was that people had time to be distracted by the affairs of everyday life. Unfortunately, this also included things like this census and the taxes that were exacted by Augustus.
Joseph and Mary were both descendants of King David and therefore had to go to their tribal home in Judea to be registered. It was not just a one time census. The decree established a cycle of enrollments that were to occur every 14 years. The census originally excluded Palestine because the Jews were exempt from military service and the census was ordered primarily to register young men for military service along with accounting for Roman citizens. This new census was to register every nation by family and tribe. So Joseph and Mary did what they were told and went, though Mary was with child.
And it was because of this that they, providentially, were in the very place that Micah had said that the Messiah would be born (Micah 5:2). However, along with Joseph and Mary, the town of Bethlehem was crowded with others who were following the orders of Augustus. Most were going about their worldly business dealings, seeking to appease Caesar and hoping to get back to life as usual. They had too much on their minds to be distracted by one young woman about to have a baby. In fact, how many other women were having babies that very night? Most took little notice of this humble child born in a cave made into an animal stable and sleeping in a feeding trough for horses and cattle.
III. The People to Whom Jesus was Revealed (8-20)
As a matter of fact, it seemed that no one was paying attention to the most magnificent event in human history. Of course, there were some exceptions to this. But, for the most part, Jesus entered this world relatively unnoticed.
The Magi that we hear about every Christmas came much later. And it was their inquiry that lead King Herod to kill the boy children 2 years old and younger because of his jealousy and fear that someone would usurp his place.
We read of godly Simeon and Anna, who both witnessed that Jesus was the Christ. However, they came along in the story after Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day (2:21-40).
However, there were some to whom the Lord revealed his Messiah on the very night in which it happened. It wasn't a group of prophets or kings. They were a group of lowly shepherds. This is interesting since in the time of Christ the shepherd was considered to be at the bottom rung on the social status in Palestine. They were judged to be below tax collectors and dung sweepers by the Jews of that time.
But God used these men to spread the news of the birth of His one and only Son. Because, as the Apostle Paul will tell us later:
"But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that he may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God." (I Corinthians 1:27-29).
These particular shepherds, being from Bethlehem, lived near Jerusalem. Because of this, their sheep were probably used in the temple sacrifices. The surrounding area was prime grazing land and the shepherds worked in these pastures day and night all year round. How appropriate it was for these men to have an announcement made to them that the Lamb of God has arrived who will take away the sins of the whole world!
It was these frightened men that an angel of the Lord stood before, as God's glory shone brightly, and he announced confidently:
"Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people. For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you. You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." (10-12).
It was also to these frightened shepherds that a whole host of angels began praising God and saying:
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." (13-14).
And we see that God's confidence in the shepherds was vindicated when they had an immediate positive response after the angels left. They could have blown it off thinking that they were delusional and this couldn't have happened. Or they could have refused to listen to the angels' message and kept doing their job and continued watching their sheep. After all, no one will believe what a shepherd tells them. But they didn't do any of these things.
The Scriptures said that they talked to one another and then went straight to Bethlehem to see what the Lord had made known to them. They found their way to Mary and Joseph and saw for themselves the baby in the manger. And these men reported to all those around what the angel had said about the child, Jesus.
Those that heard wondered at the things told them by the shepherds while Mary treasured them in her heart.
The key is that they told everyone about what had been revealed to them. They were willing to get out of their comfort zone and let those in their world around them know what God had told and shown them. Then they went back to their flocks, praising God for all that they had heard and seen from Him (15-20).
While most of the world seemed unfazed by what had happened that night, these men were forever changed by the baby in the manger.
Phillips Brooks, a famous 19th-century clergyman, once told this story:
A friend says to me, "I have no time or room in my life for Christianity. If it were not so full! You don't know how hard I work from morning till night. When have I time, where have I room for Christianity in such a life as mine?"
Then Brooks says this:
"It is as if the engine had said it had no room for the steam. It is as if the tree said it had no room for the sap. It is as if the ocean said it had no room for the tide. It is as if the man had said he had no room for his soul. It is as if the life had said it had no time to live when it is life. It is not something added to life; it is life. A man is not living without it. And for a man to say, "I am so full in life that I have no room for life," you see immediately to what absurdity it reduces itself"
There are so many people who say that they have no time for the Christ of Christmas. They think that they are too busy for the one who is the Maker and Sustainer of the Universe. They, either by their actions or their words, tell those whom they meet that they have too much on their schedules for stopping to celebrate the one who is the Savior of the world and the Giver of eternal life.
And they live distracted by their religion or by the affairs of this world that will one day come to an end.
We, the followers of the Christ of Christmas, must be the first to step up and, like the shepherds, tell the world what we have seen and heard. And then return glorifying God for all that He has done.
The world has largely forgotten the reason that we celebrate Christmas and has substituted it with all sorts of things that really don't matter in the end. We must not forget that the Lord of heaven and earth has come to us to give all who believe in Him eternal life. And we just have to tell a wondering world that this same Christ lives today and will one day return to take His followers to be with Him in His eternal Kingdom. Let us, this season, put Christ back in Christmas where He belongs. And by our celebration may we lead all those who see us to accept the Lord Jesus Christ and acknowledge for themselves His coming into this world of death to give men life. Thank God for the baby in the manger who has become the hope of all mankind! Thank Him for the Christ of Christmas!!
© 2019 Jeff Shirley