The Real Business Of Christmas

All around us is the business of Christmas. Well, let’s spell business with a “y” – busyness. For busy we are during these few short days before Christmas.

One remembers hearing of a mother so terribly busy, so preoccupied with the mad rush of the Season; one day, while scampering from store to store, running interference with thousands of “last-minuters” like herself, she frantically realized that the pudgy little mittened hand of her three-year-old son was no longer clutched protectively in hers. Two hysterical blocks back, she saw him. He was standing there, his little nose pressed flatly against the December-frosted, plate glass, shop window, peering at a manager scene. Hearing his mother’s impatient call, he turned and cried out gleefully: “Look Mommy, its Jesus. See Baby Jesus in the hay?” Impatiently, she jerked him away, shouting: “We don’t have time for that.”

Sadly, one recognizes that we are no different from those who were too busy with taxes and trade, the mad rush of things to find either time or room for Him in Bethlehem. Surely just as now, there were a few “faith-filled” enough, or curious enough, to seek him out; but there was so little time and absolutely no decent room for him. Everyone was too busy.

How it must pierce the very heart of God Almighty to look down on His world today, down on our cities, and see how we make time for all our secular rituals: untold, ridiculous hours of gift-hunting, of decorating too lavishly, of planning and attending too many annual Christmas parties, of posting too many greeting cards at the last minute, and of cooking and baking too much for any occasion. Yet we have so little time for the real business of Christmas!

Somewhere above all this – the noise of merrymaking; the cry of battle and strife, of suffering and anxiety – the angels are still proclaiming. Above all the death and darkness in our human experience, his Star is still shining. Are we too busy to hear, too preoccupied to see? One prays to God we are not.

God did what he did at Bethlehem that night to bring joy to us despite our sadness, hope where despair keeps watch; courage for fears ever present; peace to these tempest-tossed days; sufficient grace for burdens too heavy; love enough to inspire all living.

Frances Chesterton, in her poem, asks: “How Far Is It to Bethlehem?” She answers: “Not far.” Yet spiritually, we are so far from Bethlehem. Any day’s headlines prove the truth of such a statement. The real business of Christmas was God’s breaking into human history, in a decisive way, at a decisive moment, to offer his Son as the light of life. With Him came the light that no darkness can ever put out; the light that is the foundation of a world-wide peace and security; the light that can reconcile the lost and the least, the forgotten and forlorn, the high and the mighty. When the light of faith gives the dark of any night a sparkle – it’s Christmas!

Then, how far is it to Bethlehem? As far as repentance and faith, as far as decision, and dedication? It was there, that night, in a tiny Judean hamlet, as foretold by the prophets of old, that God made it possible for us to exchange our fears for faith, our weaknesses for strength, our hatred for love, our aimlessness for purpose, and our physical deaths for eternal life. This is the real business of Christmas.