Today, I want to talk about all the people who were never mentioned in the Christmas story – yet, when we think about it… they are so integral in the message of Christmas.
I’m talking about all the swarms of people who had descended upon Jerusalem (and its surrounding towns) for the festival of tabernacles. Not only were they in town for the Roman census, it was also one of the mandatory Jewish festivals (Lev. 23:33-43). All Jewish people had descended upon Jerusalem for this celebration centered in remembering God’s bounty and His deliverance.
Interesting, that at a time when everyone had gathered to rejoice in God’s provision and deliverance that the Messiah was born. The birth of Jesus was signifying God’s greatest provision – and God’s means of ultimate deliverance.
But here’s the thing… ALL these good, religious people were gathered to do their religious duty… and completely missed the birth of their Savior. How many thousands of people were in the very vicinity of where God had touched down among them – and were completely oblivious to the greatest event in human history.
It reminds us that we can be so caught up in doing all the things we think pleases God – that we can utterly miss the God we are trying to please.
It also points out the danger in religion. Religious activity has a strong tendency to rob us of our spiritual sight. We can get so busy in doing our religious duty that we can forget that God is seeking our hearts. Religion causes us to weary ourselves in doing things for God – and we can fail to see what God has done (and is doing) for us. The essence of true Christianity is always based on what God has done for us!
Christianity was never intended to be a religion… It was always intended to be a relationship. Jesus came to bring us into friendship with God – not to give us more rules to follow… or more rituals to observe. Rules and rituals are not wrong – as long as they are used to enhance our relationship with God. As long as those rules and rituals do not become a replacement for a vital relationship with the One Who came to make a way for us to enter His family and become one of His beloved children.
On the night when Jesus, the Promised Redeemer, was born… thousands had gathered to do their duty for God. The Savior had come to planet earth, and they never knew He had come. They never turned aside from their religious practices to drop by and see their Redeemer. They never heard the “herald angels.” They ignored the unreserved testimony of the shepherds. They never noticed “His star” right above Bethlehem. They never wondered just what might be going on besides that Bethlehem Inn. They were focused only on doing their duty to God.
It is quite easy for us to be caught up in all the religious pageantry and beauty of the Christmas season – and somehow miss the reason behind it all. We can become oblivious to the Presence of our Savior – even as we go about trying to please Him.
I would just encourage all of us to seek out the Savior this Christmas – to make it a point to seek Him out, set our eyes upon Him, and welcome Him into our hearts.
That IS the reason why He came.