Lately, I can relate to the three wise men. Not the wise part. The looking part.
All of Israel was supposedly looking forward to the Messiah of prophecy but these total strangers from an unknown land noticed a star and went searching. With a few exceptions, almost everyone else missed Jesus.
It would be easy to judge them but the same thing is happening again right now. Jesus is missing from Christmas. I’m not trying to be clever or provocative. I’m just stating the obvious.
The more I realize that Jesus is the defining moment of human history, when God Himself stepped into creation to save us, the more I want to know Jesus. The more I’m grateful to Him. The more I want to learn about Him and be like Him.
It’s like looking for my wife in a crowded room. Or looking for my child in a class picture. Or watching my grandchildren on a playground. The ones I love are my focus.
I can’t help it.
So, when it comes to the time of year that is supposed to be Jesus’ birthday, I look for Him. And more and more I’m not finding Him. And I miss Him.
Without even being aware of what was happening, I began a subconscious search for Christmas. The real Christmas.
For example, I just watched the new Kurt Russell movie that is getting rave reviews. It was entertaining and heartwarming. But Jesus wasn’t in it anywhere. There was one scene on the steps of a church but the heavenly sounding song emanating from behind the closed doors was not a hymn. It was a pop song about a Christmas tree.
And Christmas trees are not Jesus.
Yes, I have one glowing in my living room, all red, green, white, and silver. But, truthfully, it has nothing to do with the birth of Jesus. I’m not trying to spoil the fun. I’m just looking for the missing person.
There’s a present under the tree with my name on it. I’m aware of it and the love involved in picking it out and wrapping it. As a kid, that’s the only present that would have mattered.
But Jesus made no demands for us to merch up His birthday. Yes, the wise men brought gifts but they gave them to Jesus, not their own friends and family. Amazon Prime is not mentioned in the Bible, or Walmart, or even Chick-fil-A.
I’m not being a Scrooge, I’m just looking for the real Christmas.
And, no, Charles Dicken’s character isn’t part of it. A Christmas Carol contains ghosts and greed and fear and drama. It’s a ripping good tale and Scrooge learns a lesson but Jesus doesn’t appear in it.
Maybe it’s being picky but “God bless us every one,” doesn’t mention Jesus. But then, I’m like the unreasonable parent wondering why my child didn’t get the best line in the play.
Because, that’s who I really came to see.
Santa Claus is easy to find but he’s not actually Christmas.
We all know he wasn’t standing by the manger but today it has to be said. In fact, St. Nick has almost replaced Jesus. Because who can be against a portly, magical grandfather that passes out gifts?
But, he’s not the one I’m looking for.
Christmas songs are everywhere. Surely, that’s my answer. I do love them. My mom sang them from Thanksgiving to New Years Day.
But, to be perfectly truthful, the angelic host proclaimed. They didn’t sing. Neither did Bing Crosby or Elvis or Amy Grant. The first Christmas was not white. There were no Chestnuts. It did not rock or swing. There was no drummer boy.
It’s a natural response for us to sing in celebration but popular music avoids the real Christmas like the plague. Imagine having a birthday party where everyone sings about other people but no one sings happy birthday to you.
No, I must keep looking.
In my neighborhood, by all appearances, Christmas is about bright lights, projected colors and inflatable, fictional characters. Santa rides through one yard with his favorite dog in an actual antique pickup truck filled with Christmas trees. It makes me smile. But guess who isn’t in the truck?
Yes, I laugh when social media celebrates the season with t-shirts of Bruce Willis saving Nakatomi Plaza. I get wistful over Charlie Brown’s sad tree. I do my best to accommodate the cookie bakers and divinity makers. My ears perk up at the mention of Christmas bonuses.
I watch dutifully as Jimmy Stewart transforms into a wide-eyed lunatic and back again and Clarence the oddball angel finally earns his wings. I snort appropriately when my local coffee shop puts a Santa hat on their logo of a Tennessee fainting goat.
There’s nothing that we can’t Christmas-ize.
But, along the way, I have seen signs that other people are seeking Christmas.
Last night I saw the most amazing laser-cut card depicting a manger scene which included Jesus. It was strikingly beautiful. When I reached for one by instinct, I realized that it was the only card in the display that was sold out. There were plenty of other Christmas-ish cards available.
You are out there. I can feel it. The seekers.
But I know where to find you. There’s only one place left to go.
There are no carved wooden pews or stained glass windows. We sit together on wide padded chairs and listen to the subwoofers thump while children’s voices sing self-consciously.
My emotions swell as memories of children’s choirs past jolt my heart like a cattle prod. We wait patiently until the production is over and the adult choir sings its last resounding chorus.
He climbs the stairs in silence, opens the book and begins to read. And together we all breathe a sigh of relief as the angelic host proclaim what we have so desperately needed to hear.
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.
Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
P.S. If you are one of the seekers of Christmas, I would love to hear from you in the comments below. We all need to know you’re out there. And if this helps, please, share.
And to all, a very merry Christmas.