Christmas Then And Now
by Rev. Robert J. Hermley
Stories for Life Index
The infant Jesus came into the world that first Christmas with high hopes of bringing forgiveness and peace to a world which had grown cold to religious ideals; but Bethlehem was too busy with parties, drinking, and tending to their own case and comfort to worry, or even to give a second glance to Mary in her condition.
The world had long awaited His coming. The prophets had foretold where He would be born and the circumstances of His miraculous birth. The star was to catch the eye of all, to remind them of its meaning but the worldly inhabitants had long ago put aside the spiritual and had come under the influence of a new age dedicated to wealth, carnal desires and the wish to be free of their Roman conquerors. Certainly, they thought, the Messiah when He came would drive out their enemies. As Moses had delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians, so the Messiah would come with power and majesty to make all their enemies pay for the insults and degradation heaped upon the chosen people. He would establish a worldly empire, rally the people in a majestic manner and they would follow Him. They had completely forgotten that the Messiah's role was to bring forgiveness and to reconcile God and man.
Ever so slowly God's chosen people had slipped away from their covenant with Yahweh, had absorbed the worldliness of their conquerors, and had begun to think just like them. The prophets had warned them again and again of this problem. Their warnings went unheeded.
The commandments given by God to Moses had become burdensome. Some paid no attention to them at all. Others rationalized away the very idea of sin and guilt. Certainly, the Messiah would be a forward looking Savior moving them into a brand new era. He would definitely teach a social Gospel rather than a Holy Gospel, and He would do away with poverty, sickness and disease. How could one sent by God tolerate sorrow and trouble and allow such tragedy as starvation? If they were the chosen ones, they at least should be kept free of trials and tribulations. What kind of Messiah would tolerate economic problems? These were the real problems. Religious indifference and lack of religious fervor could be investigated later - if there was any time left.
Centuries before, however, God the Father had decreed that in the fullness of time, He would send His only Son into the world to show the people that there was a worse servitude than slavery; it was the bondage of sin. That thee was a worse suffering than disease; it was leprosy of the soul. There there was a worse poverty than poorness; it was a poverty of spirit leaving us separated from God, unhappy, devoid of love and brotherly consideration. There was something even worse than dying; it was the death of a soul experienced by one who refuses to live the covenant God had made with mankind long ago through Moses.
God the Father had extensively warned all the people about these things through the prophets, but in general all these warnings went unheeded. Now it was time to send His Son to announce the news Himself. However, He would perfect the old law. The way of salvation was to be through a narrow gate, the master was to be the servant of all, the greatest wealth was to be the kind where neither moth destroys not rust corrodes, and blessed were the poor in spirit and pure of heart.
As Christ came into the world, there were still some people who had read and were following the Scriptures; these were watching and waiting. They were relatively few in number, however. So, the angels welcomed Him themselves that first Christmas, and they were so happy that they went out to the countryside and sang their glories to God. Some lowly shepherds heard their marvelous story and followed their advice to seek a Good Shepherd wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manager. Their simple uncomplicated faith made them understand the truth at once. They visited the stable, found the Savior and believed. They had no degrees, no private tutors, no college education but they believed, and their simple faith was rewarded.
Somewhere in the East, wise men had also seen the star, and knowing what it meant, followed it. Today's exegetes like to call them astrologers, but they were indeed wise men because they knew the meaning of that particular star. They had been waiting a long time for it. It is interesting to note that the star was visible to all, but only the wise chose to follow it. Yes, they were wise men, indeed.
So, Christ came that first Christmas and was virtually ignored. What a chance the chosen people missed. Anyone could have brought Mary and Joseph into their home seeing her condition; what a blessing would have been bestowed on that house, but they had become selfish and uncaring because they had abandoned the covenant.
Every year at Christmas, however, as we celebrate the birth of Christ, I feel that the Christ child leaves heaven that night to wander over the world once again, to see if mankind has changed. He wanders the earth to see if anyone will give Him room in the stable of their heart; to see if anyone of today understands the true meaning of His coming - and that is, not to make life easier, but to get us to repent and give up worldliness, selfishness and sin. Are there any who will regret having fallen away from His New Testament and sincerely wish to return to a life of Grace? If so, He would clean up the cobwebs, sweep out the dirt round up the beasts that still dwelt in the stable of such a heart and change it into a Tabernacle with His Sanctifying Grace.
He does warn us, however, that we must change. "You cannot serve God and Mammon." He tells us, "If you wish to be My disciple take up your cross and follow Me." His Gospel is sill a holy one. social problems will disappear only when men practice the Holy Gospel.
Times have not changed that much. This Christmas, there will again be joy, frivolity, and parties, but not much of the spiritual. The world has again grown cold to religious ideals and it wants an easy religion.
In general, people are not opposed to Christ. They personally like Him, but they will not push their views on to others. They like Him in a sort of way, but they do not want His Cross. People today want an easy religion, not too difficult to follow, a smorgasbord religion where they can pick and choose what laws they will and will not obey. Some of them are even clothed in theologian's degrees and sit in judgment on the old morality. They speak of a new morality which is not really new at all. It is the resurrected remains of Modernism log ago condemned by St. Pius X. They hold doctrines which contradict Scripture and the teaching of the Fathers of the Church. They do this under the guise of bringing the Church up to date. But Christ Himself warned us to be careful of such false prophets who come to us in sheep's clothing but underneath are wolves on the prowl. He reminded us, "By their fruits you shall know them. St. Paul also predicted: "The time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but will follow their own desires and surround themselves with teachers who tickle their ears, they will stop listening to the truth and will wander off to fables.: (2 Tim. 4:3-4)
And so, in truth it is a choice between Christ and Barabbas.
Let us, at least, open our hearts to the Infant Jesus this Christmas accepting Him, His Church, and His teaching as He taught it. Let it be said of us faithful ones, He came unto His own and His own opened the stable of their hearts and He made of them a tabernacle wherein He chose to live forever.
This Christmas, have all in your family prepare for Christ's coming. Give Him room in your heart through a sincere confession. Take up your Cross whatever it may be and follow Him. His yoke is easy and His burden light. The rewards are out of the world!
Merry Christmas and as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us everyone.