“The shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.'” — Luke 2:15b
Already in September I saw Christmas items on display. I knew then that the countdown of shopping days left would soon begin.
If the shepherds wondered when Messiah would come, it was certainly not with reference to shopping days. But after the angel’s announcement, they might have asked how far it was to the Christ at Bethlehem. Since distance is mainly determined by the road one travels, we might profitably ask, “How far is it to Christmas?”
If we travel to Christmas on the double-lane highway of pride and self-righteousness, we will never arrive. There was nothing at Bethlehem to appeal to the proud heart–no royal palace with all the trimmings. Only a nondescript town, an inn, a stable, common people, a Babe wrapped in strips of cloth. And though the Babe was King of kings, yet He “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant” (Php. 2:7).
This humble Babe was God’s Gift to all. Yet He cannot be understood or received by those with proud and self-righteous hearts. Such sinners see no need of a Savior and ultimately do not behold Jesus as God–only a symbol of mushy love and feel-goodism. Bethlehem will have no meaning–beyond fleeting emotionalism–to one who has Satan’s snake of pride and self-righteousness coiled in a death grip around his heart. If you travel the big-headed, proud-hearted road to Christmas, you will never get there. Lost, you won’t even be tempted to ask for directions.
If we travel to Christmas on the super-highway of materialism, we will never arrive. If Christmas is only a Festival of Spending and Using, it cannot be the Festival of the Father’s Loving Gift. If the holy joys of Bethlehem are crowded out by the pleasures of this life, we will have no time to seek the Kingdom of God.
Never-ending consumerism may be encouraged by governments and commercialism by store owners, but a stable was the birthplace of Him who had ‘no place to lay His head.’ Neither did He care, for the eternal Word came to give mankind the things that the eye cannot see, nor money can buy–forgiveness of sins, peace, and eternal salvation.
The Road Can Be A Trap
If our lives are wrapped up in ourselves, if we insist that our way is the best way, if we live only to buy and possess, then we will never get to Christmas. Know that this road is bedecked with many attractions, among which are King Ahab’s ‘”I-gotta-have-it” Vineyard,’ the spectacular real estate of Ananias and Sapphira, Everyman’s House of Discontent, and the ‘Treasure-Keepers’ Mall’ owned by a certain young rich man.
This road is a trap for the unwary. It promises happiness but does not even reach the outskirts of Christmas. Its end is a junkyard of broken toys, rusted gadgets, and discarded dreams. Its many owners delight in all they have but then sadly end up begging forever for a single drop of water.
How far is it to Christmas? If we travel the road of humble, repentant faith and joyful adoration, then we will find Bethlehem. In fact, Christmas will find us, for Immanuel is “God with us.” Then will be revealed the Babe as Lord and Sacrifice. Then faith will claim the Father’s Loving Gift as the only remedy to sin and guilt, alienation and despair. Humble faith will open the precious presents–freedom from the curse and power of sin, death, and Satan. Faith will respond with the voice of angels: “Glory to God in the highest . . . .”
What road shall we take to Christmas? There is only one that leads to Bethlehem, to the Savior. It is the road straight and narrow. It is the Bible road, along which are signposts and encouraging instructions–those truths “which the Lord has made known to us.”
“Let us now (so) go even unto Bethlehem.” And let our travel dress be–now and for all seasons–robes of righteousness designed in eternity, spun in a manger, splattered red on a hill, and made gloriously white in an empty tomb.
–Pastor David Fuerstenau