In this year’s Christmas Day sermon, Pastor Dondo encouraged us to sing like the angels and share the good news like the shepherds and then turned his attention to 5 groups of people who appear in the birth narratives of Jesus but miss the significance of what’s going on. He implored us: don’t be like them! I thought it was quite a novel approach, so I reproduce it here.
5 groups who missed the first Christmas
1. The innkeeper; he was too busy. It was clearly a frantic time for the innkeeper with so many people in Bethlehem for the census. He had a full house! But in all that, we have no record that he twigged what was going on in his stable; we have no indication that he worshipped the babe along with the shepherds. Many of us may feel similarly frantic with preparations for feasts, or family obligations. These are good things and you can still eat pilau! But don’t let them keep you from seeing Jesus and taking time with him.
2. Herod; he was too fearful for his position. Herod was not ignorant of who Jesus was – he was advised by many learned people. However, he was unable to draw near because of what it might mean for his own status. Instead, threatened by Jesus, he imposed enormous suffering on the families of Bethlehem. Many of us know who Jesus is but we are fearful about what following him will mean for our lives, or our positions. We avoid him or seek to bring down others because we do not recognise that whatever Jesus demands from us, his joy, peace and life are greater.
3. The religious elite; they were too self-righteous. The chief priests and the scribes who advised Herod had all the learning in the world. They knew where the Messiah was going to be born and told Herod! Yet, for all that learning, as the very things they knew unfolded, they missed them! No amount of theological understanding makes a person beyond meeting Jesus. Allow greater Bible knowledge to make you more open to Jesus, not more closed.
4. The Roman rulers; they were too close-minded. The Romans ruled Judea at this time but by and large viewed the Jewish people as odd and backward. They knew that Rome was greatest and that their gods were superior. They could not see any other way of being, certainly not God in a small baby in an out-of-the-way place. Their traditions and old ways of doing things prohibited them from seeing the new thing God was doing.
5. The people of Nazareth; they were too familiar. Of course Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but his family lived in Nazareth and he grew up there. These people saw Jesus’ perfect life from when he was a baby and yet the gospels tell us that they failed to see what was before them. Many of us may have grown up in church, perhaps even have a father who is a pastor, and it’s all very familiar to us. Familiarity is not the same as knowing Jesus.
Pastor Dondo’s message was that, there is a choice that each of us must make to follow Jesus. He had this neat little summary of the gospel to explain who Jesus is: Jesus lives, Jesus loves, Jesus lifts us from Hell, and Jesus lightens our burdens.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.