Just over a week ago I preached a message entitled, When Christmas Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas, using the story of the Magi in Matthew chapter 2 as my primary text. Often pastors end this story with the Astrologers return to the East by another route, and leave Herod's slaughter of all children two years and under for some other time. I decided to include it, as a celebration followed by a tragedy is too often the story of Christmas for many, as it was for the Christ just a few years after he was born.
After reading the story from the Bible, I went on to simply narrate some of the conclusions.
First we talked about the journey, the question for us being, where are we at on our journey and are we putting the same kind of “effort” into ours, that the wise men put into their cross continental journey? If we are going to describe our faith as a journey, are we actually going on a journey?
Second we looked at the giving of gifts, not to ask for more for the church, but referencing Christ’s statement recorded in Mat 25:34-40, that when we give directly to those in need, we give directly to Christ. My sub point here being that if this is a tough time of year for us, part of our response should be to give our time, emotions and belonging to those in more need than we are. (and some of us may very well be in a great deal of need, but someone else is in more need.)
The third point was The Terrible Ending, in which we looked directly at the ways we hurt this time of year, in conjunction with Herod's response to being outwitted by the Magi.
I said this: One way or another we got this idea in our heads that Christmas should be a time of perfect harmony, families and the like getting along famously. But after too many years of quite the opposite happening, whether its just bickering and fighting, or worse, we start to realize that maybe Christmas just isn’t all its cracked up to be. And in fact can be an instigator of strife. Who’s family are we going to be with? How much money are we going to spend? If I act responsibly and stay within my budget, my child will have little or nothing compared to his friends, and what does that say about me as a man or woman, a provider for my family?
I then responded to those questions this way: Let me say right up front, that neither I, nor anyone else has an “answer” to the “why” question. We don’t know why bad things happen to good people. We can try and apply some logic, but that only gets us so far. However, we have a God who is able to identify personally with our suffering. We know a God who loves us and has been in our shoes. He is a God who had no place to lay his head, who lived the life of a migrant, wondering from place to place. He began life as an alien, living in a foreign land, and there can be no doubt that Jesus’ parents were more than likely discriminated against or worse while they were in Egypt. Our God is a God who joins us in our suffering, feeling what we feel, knowing our circumstances as only he can.
I then wrapped up by putting the Christmas story in it’s larger historical and theological context, the in-breaking, the beginning of the “now” of the