Not that I have ever thought that it was outright funny, however I will admit I chuckled in the past when folks would get all worked up over missing an item on sale that was out of stock or when tempers would flare five minutes before the doors would open the day after thanksgiving. In my former career as a store manager in the 1980’s and 1990’s for Harts department store I saw some very interesting and amusing things. Like the time two unassuming grandma looking ladies came to blows over the last Cabbage Patch Doll, or the wrestling match that occurred after we ran out of a “Star Wars All Terrain Armored Transport.” Let me tell you these two fellas were determined not to let go! These and a few other choice memories surfaced again as I heard today of a lady who came up to a manager to complain about how many people were in the store and said she couldn’t get to the sale items she wanted because of the crowds. She asked if he could make everyone leave so that she could shop the sales in peace. He told her that wasn’t possible. A few minutes later the fire alarm went off and they had to evacuate the whole store. The fire department came and found that lady trying to shop! She was arrested by the way. Simply reminding us of the heartbreaking but true stories that underscore the reality that so many in our world are totally missing the message of Christmas!
What can be done? Well I’m glad you ask! If I recall correctly, in the original Christmas story we have an account of a few folks that got it right. They not only received the message of the saviors birth with the right spirit but they shared it the right way as well. There was a message and there was a voice. Let’s listen in… “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.” The message: Jesus Christ is born. The voice: simple shepherds. Here’s where you and I come in. The message: well it’s still the same. It’s unchangeable by time but life changing to those who will hear and receive it’s truth. The voice: that has changed. No longer are they simple shepherds, now it is simply you and me. The shepherds, witnessed firsthand and they believed. You and I weren’t there physically but by faith we also see and believe. We know in our hearts it’s true. You’ve got to believe it before you can tell it! You and I also have the amazing honor to teach and share with our families the good news that Jesus Christ is born. Some of my fondest memories as a daddy are wrapped in the Christmas season, hearing my children sing the songs, sharing with them the Christmas story from the word of God.
In 1859, Phillips Brooks began his ministry as a pastor. In 1861, Brooks became pastor at Holy Trinity Church in Philadelphia. He was a master orator and his special love of children drew literally thousands to his congregation. But by 1863, the country was in the middle of the Civil War. Every Sunday, he looked down at the widows and mournful faces and became weary of trying to find a message of joy or peace. Then, president Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and he was asked to preside over the funeral ceremony. By 1865, poor Brooks needed a break so he left America for an extended visit to the Middle East. While there, he toured the spots of Biblical importance. On Christmas Eve in Jerusalem that year, Brooks borrowed a horse and spent time wandering, lost in thought. Just as the sun was setting, he rode into the tiny town of Bethlehem and the clear sky became full of stars. Awed by the wonder of the scene and how our Savior came from such humble beginnings, his faith was inspired! In December of 1868, he recalled his time in the Holy Land again. This time, the words flowed and soon formed a poem. “O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie! Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting Light; The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight. For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above, While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love. O morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth, And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth! O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!” Here’s our part as his voice, Praises sing to God and king, and peace to men on earth. If the world’s going to hear the truth, they have to hear it from us!
Tim Throckmorton is the former Executive Pastor of the Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace Ohio and the Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace, Ohio. He is currently the Senior Pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio.