It was about zero degrees this morning, and we all thought about cancelling the day due to lack of temperature. This week we will probably hit double digits below zero, and the wind chill is much colder. But our days will not be cancelled, because colder days are yet to come.
The snow flew sideways again today as it came down, and drifted our sidewalks and driveways. If you are in Florida or another warm place reading this, don't pity us. We have been waiting for the cold, and hoping for the snow. It is part of where we live and therefore who we are.
Since it is the middle of December, when we don't think about and talk about the weather, we think about Christmas. As a pastor, of course I preach advent throughout the season. In fact, I have been living and breathing the Christmas story for the past month, and the series of Following The Signs will continue into mid-January.
As I was thinking about Christmas this morning (and let's be honest, thinking about the sermon series), I started thinking about how wrong we have the Christmas story. Many carols help create and foster the confusion. In fact, most churches never get it right.
First Christ wasn't born in December. It is generally agreed among scholars that He was born in the spring, some time around the Passsover. In fact, those particular shepherds were most likely chosen because they were watching over the Passover lambs. The first ones to hear the message of Christ's birth would soon deliver lambs without blemish to be sacrificed for the sins of the people. The angels could have told the shepherds, "Behold the Lamb of God!"
Around two years later the wise men showed up in Jerusalem. So why do the vast majority of nativity sets include three kings, but to have shepherds show up you need to pay extra?!
These wise men showed up in a great entourage that sent Jerusalem into an uproar, attracting the notice of Herod. As the wise men told the king, they were looking for the new-born king, whom they presumed would be born in the city of the king, Jerusalem.
No star led them to Herod. If it had, the star would have made a mistake in direction. The wise men, possible 70 or so of them, and for that and other reasons, obviously not kings, saw the star in the east, and took time to search the scriptures (they probably had at least the book of Daniel, since he was a magi), and packed for a long journey, taking with them servants to care for the animals, make meals, set up the tents, and guard the caravan.
They had to have the guards because they had to carry enough gold to provide for the needs of the company for perhaps a year's time, as well as the gifts for the new king. The roads they would travel would be dangerous.
The wise men saw the star in the east, discovered its meaning, and headed west, away from the star. That is how they ended up in Jerusalem, the seat of the kings. It was there that they learned the long-awaited Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
So they turned south towards Bethlehem. "Southward leading, still proceeding", for the first time they followed the star. Notice the language used to describe their seeing the star. "They rejoiced, with great joy." They were overwhelmed with joy. Why? Because they had not seen the star since they jouneyed west. The word "Behold" before stating that they saw the star indicated a surprising event was happening.
According to what they told Herod, it took them close to two years to determine the meaning of the star, prepare for their (possibly) year-long jouney and get to Jerusalem. Joseph was a carpenter. Jesus was a toddler. They didn't keep living in a stable after the census crowd left Bethlehem. The Bible tells us that the wise men found the family living in a house.
I could go on, but you get the picture, and this is getting long. In spite of all the mistakes, the confusion and the wrongly drawn conclusions, Christmas is still just a week and a half away.
You see, it doesn't really matter what time of year we choose to celebrate. It doesn't matter if your nativity has the wise men at the manger. A friend on facebook posted a picture of the nativity at his church. A child (we hope) added a Star Wars storm trooper. That may be a bit over the line. The other people there were Mary, Joseph, Jesus and three kings.
But it really doesn't matter. What really matters is that we celebrate. What is important is that Christ is celebrated. He really came to earth, born of a virgin. He truly lived a sinless life. And He died on the cross as the sinless Lamb of God, taking your sin and mine upon Himself.
Three days later He rose from the dead, so that we too can have eternal life with Him.
Do you know Him? Have you asked Him to forgive you of your sin? He died to bring you life. Give your life to Him today. After all, He gave His for you!
Then celebrate CHRIST in CHRISTmas!