Tomorrow is Christmas. The day chosen to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Tonight there will be lots of Christmas Eve celebrations; parties, family traditions such as stockings to hang, snacks to leave out for a midnight visitor bearing gifts, for some perhaps a midnight mass or church service to attend. But if we are not careful we can forget the whole reason of this Advent season and miss the point of Christmas entirely.
15 When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
16 They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough. 17 After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them.
Luke 2:15-19 (Holman Christian Standard Bible [HCSB])
I love the language of the Holman translation, “Lets go straight to Bethlehem.” Straight without stopping, no detours no side tracks, no waiting to make complex plans before going. No, we are going straight to Bethlehem where the promise of the new-born Christ is waiting.
Tonight on the holiest night of the year many of us will end our Advent journey before we even really begin it. We’ve become a culture where the Thanksgiving dishes are not even dry and we are waiting in line for doorbuster bargains and 5 am sales. Where the advent calendar countdown is really just an excuse to have a piece of candy a day for 25 days.
We’ve lost the real meaning and purpose of Christmas. We no longer go straight to Bethlehem, instead we wander through the Black Friday sales, office secret santa’s and mall food courts at a frenetic pace before arriving at Christmas as some holiday finish line with prizes to be awarded under the tree.
The very meaning of Bethlehem means “house of bread”, a fitting birthplace for the one who is our very “Bread of Life (John 6)”. We should approach the Advent season as travelers on a quest in search of the very essence of our purpose as Christians. We should be searching for the King and eagerly awaiting our encounter with him. The very Christ who we will celebrate later next year at Easter has already arrived and we do not need to wait to experience him and his grace and mercy. Christmas is about beginnings, about promises made and kept. It is about our opportunity to forget the trappings of a commercial holiday and become like the Christ child, vulnerable and newborn with the most humble of beginnings.
Jesus is waiting for us in Bethlehem at Christmas, just as he waits for us the other 364 days of the year. Lets not miss this opportunity to encounter him.
Lets go straight to Bethlehem.