It is December again. We are in the last month of 2023. Time has really passed swiftly! Traditionally, it is a month in which one is busy. Come to think of it, did we have a month when we were not busy? People review their 2023 resolutions list and hope to achieve as many of the things they planned to accomplish before the year ends. There are projects to complete, accounts pressing for receipts, performance appraisals to be submitted and preparation for a year-end holiday. Above all, don’t you dare forget to shop for Christmas presents!
There is so much noise in our lives and everything shouts for attention. Don’t you appreciate the great effort of the shopping malls? The Christmas decorations were already up the day after Deepavali! Images of snowflakes, sleighs with reindeer, snowmen and irresistible sales flood our eyes. Take a pause, inhale deeply and exhale slowly, lest we forget the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Christ. God sent His Son to save us from our sins. Christmas is also a time to share the good news and through the Lord Jesus, we need not pay the heavy penalty of sin. It is a time to reflect on how true peace on earth can only be experienced after the second coming of Christ.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28 ESV).
There is lots of noise today! Do we hear the voice of our shepherd? What is He saying to us during this Christmas period? Are we willing to follow His instructions? I am reminded of three groups of people during this Christmas period. The first group is the shepherds who were keeping watch over their sheep at night. The lives of shepherds were not easy in the ancient days. They had to move their flock from point to point to ensure there was enough grass for the flock to graze on. They had to keep their flock intact and protect it from predators. They had to guide it to the market areas in time for shearing and even milk the sheep and make cheese from the milk. They were common people, yet they were the first to respond to the good news. Did they wait for daybreak so it would be easier to travel? No, there was no delay! Imagine guiding your flock in the middle of the night.
Then there was the second group – the wise men. They had learnt about the birth of Christ and had come to worship Him. It would have taken them some time to prepare a caravan to move the great distance from East to West. When they saw the child Jesus, they offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They rejoiced and were exceedingly glad. Their gifts were for Jesus and Jesus alone. In modern society, we purchase gifts for friends, loved ones and family. There is nothing wrong with it. However, let us not get carried away and forget the main purpose of Christmas! It is to remember the birth of Christ. If we miss the theme, it is like going to a birthday party with presents for the guests and none for the birthday person.
Finally, there was the innkeeper. When Caesar Augustus decreed that all the known world should be registered, and each in his own town, Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem because he was of the lineage of David. Think for a moment about the sudden influx of people coming into the small town of Bethlehem. Accommodations were full. The guests needed service and food. Overnight, the price of food would have increased greatly, there would have been a labour shortage and the innkeeper would have had to get help from relatives and work longer hours to fulfill the guests’ needs. In the midst of his busyness, he totally missed welcoming the birth of Christ.
Will we be like the innkeeper who was so busy attending to the guests in the inn that he totally missed the fact that the Saviour of the world was born under his roof? Or will we be like the wise men from the East who came to worship Him who was born the king of the Jews? Let us be like the angel who boldly proclaimed the birth of Christ, allowing “shepherds” living in the fields to come into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. Life is about relationships. This Christmas, come to Jesus with your presents of wealth, talents and time. Continue the work of Christ, which is the main purpose of the existence of the church. Listen to the voice of the Great Shepherd and do what He impresses upon your hearts this Christmas. Have a blessed Christmas, everyone! - Dn Richard Yew