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Back to Bethlehem

Well, it’s that time of year when the Christmas clichés are taken out of their boxes, dusted off, and put back into circulation.  Jesus (not the risen Lord but the less imposing perpetual baby) is brought out for brief appearances in Christmas pageants and plays.  Everyone from movie makers to beer companies use His birth to push their products.  It is the height of irony that such commercialism is tied in with the birth of One who had no place to lay His head.  Christians aren’t immune from the "faith" that is six weeks long and an inch deep.  Many of us will spend a too much of our time being offended by decisions to disallow nativity scenes on public property, people saying "Happy Holidays," and other failures to meet our standards of piety.

Maybe it’s time to go back to Bethlehem.


It was a weary world into which the Christ came, one worn down by the grind of centuries.  Diseased, dying, and desperate for some kind of help and any semblance of hope, it found little of either in its plethora of religions which too often crushed the very spirits of those it should have lifted.  Judaism was so corrupt that it was blind to its own Messiah, while the amoral and arbitrary Greco-Roman deities offered nothing in the way of refuge or comfort. 


Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle had all come and gone, and for a moment a busy world had paused, lifted up their heads, perked up their ears, and opened up their minds.  But in the end they found more darkness than light, more abstraction than satisfaction, and ultimately, more questions than answers. 


The Macedonian, Alexander, stepped on to the world’s stage followed by his not-so-great successors.  Then came the Caesars of the Eternal City and the Pax Romana. But a beaten down world longed for a better peace. 


Winter had set in on man’s soul.  The embers which had glowed so brightly launching the dancing flames of dreams, aspirations, and hopes, had flickered and died.  All that remained were the ashes of disappointment and disillusionment.  It was cold.  It was bleak.  It was dark.  If ever man needed a Savior, now was the time.  Into this world came the Christ.  He came not just at the right time, He came for all time.


Jesus is the reason for the season?  Well, yes, if you can get past the triteness there’s some truth worth telling there.  But doesn’t the risen Lord deserve more than a slogan that has a shelf life of six weeks?  Is His universal reign limited to just a single season of the year?  Jesus is, in fact, the reason for all of the seasons.

Don’t reduce Christ to a seasonal ornament.  He is honored most not by our gift-wrapped presents or our gift-wrapped houses and yards, but by gift-wrapped hearts that quietly serve Him and others daily. 


And speaking of gifts, remember the real gift we need is not under the tree, it’s on the tree.
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