by Matt Levett
I wonder what that First Christmas looked like for the Chief Priests? The Holy people. The religious ones. The ones expecting Him. The ‘Church Going Christians’?
Well the truth is that the people looking the hardest for Christmas were the ones who missed the mark most severely.
Back 2000 years the Temple in Jerusalem was the busiest religious place in the world. The sacrifices never stopped; the offerings never ceased; and countless priests and singers and rule-makers continued the work of worship with every shift change. They argued over the fine points of the Law, wrestling with a complex set of 613 injunctions that had come from a far simpler list of Ten Commandments originally handed out on Mt. Sinai. They read and memorized the law, they quoted the prophets, and most of all, they waited and they looked out for the coming of the Messiah.
The Messiah – the man who would come and liberate them from the oppression of the Romans and institute a new kingdom on earth. The Messiah – the man who came from the Kingly line of David. The Messiah – the anointed one who would bring together the tribes of Israel. The Messiah – the man who would live out the offices of Prophet, Priest & King.
But when the Messiah arrived, born barely five miles from The Temple in Jerusalem, just on the outskirts of Bethlehem, not a single religious expert made it to the manger. They missed Him.
The baby lived a week, and there were no religious visitors. And then, on the eighth day, Mary and Joseph brought the baby to the Temple! They actually brought Christmas inside the very place where it should have been most likely, and most logical for someone to have recognized the long-awaited Messiah. But Mary, Joseph, and the baby managed to come into the Temple, complete the ceremony of circumcision, and slip away almost unnoticed, passing as quietly into the background as the original meaning of Christmas slips away from our over-stressed Christmas culture today.
You can be so close to it and still miss out.
If we could have seen the routine at the Temple, if we could have seen the all-too-familiar rush and hurry and exhaustion of all those so immersed in religion, we'd have seen a frightening truth. That truth is that the religious leaders & the most ardent followers, the ones who were so close to Bethlehem, missed Christmas because they were too busy.
And they stayed busy for the next 33 years, missing the teaching, the miracles, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the ascension. They were so busy doing the work of God, that they missed God's greatest work in history! They had the scripture, they knew the prophecy, they sang the songs, and they kept the holidays. But somehow, they completely missed what all of the scripture, songs, prophecy and holidays had been promising.
Finding God in our Christmas time will not be easy; no easier than finding Him the first time. If most of the religious experts missed the very first Christmas, it wouldn't be surprising to find a lot of modern-day religious people missing the big event, too.
And we shouldn’t be surprised if you and I miss it too unless we’re really careful…