So often ‘Christmas’ brings disappointments … some invited guests do not turn up, those who do bring problems with them, the gifts you gave don’t seem to please, those you receive are not what you really wanted, concerns about the food occupy your mind, the weather spoils the day … the real Christmas is smothered by the details of our personal concerns. The facts and the feelings of our lives crowd out the message of faith.

Not so the shepherds.

Had they listened to the facts they would have remained on the hillside guarding their sheep during the night against the bears and wolves and whatever else might harass them. Had they listened to the facts they would have realised the impossibility of finding one particular baby in the whole of Bethlehem.

Had they listened to their personal feelings they would have stayed where they were, away from the people who despised them for their lowly work and their bad reputation. Had they listened to their feelings they would have hesitated to go knocking on doors asking silly questions as they searched for the baby.

But they acted on faith. The angel had spoken. The heavenly choir had sung. They left their flocks, they braved the scorn of the townspeople. They hurried off to find what the Lord had told them had happened. In finding Christmas they found joy and praise and glory.

Not so the wise men.

Had they listened to the facts they would have been even more daunted than the shepherds. They did not know how far or for how long they would have to travel. They did not know where they were going.

Had they listened to their personal feelings they would have stayed with their families and in their own countries, doubting the wisdom of an unknown journey to an unknown country looking for an unknown and unnamed king.

But they acted on faith. They followed the star with a fixed belief that it announced the arrival of a King so significant that he must be worshipped, so important they brought their most expensive gifts to honour him. And they found Christmas with its joy and its worship.

But what about King Herod? He had no faith other than faith in himself. He let facts and feelings darken Christmas. Christmas threatened him, disturbed him, angered him. So first with deception, then with murderous hatred he tried to put Christmas out, to turn Christmas off, to banish Christmas. He felt compelled to defend and protect himself against Christmas, and in doing so he tried to extinguish the one thing that could have given him peace.

The Christ, the Son of God, has come to us.

Do we run to with excited and spontaneous eagerness like the shepherds, and having found him give praise and glory to God for this amazing gift?

Do we move with deliberate and determined commitment like the wise men, and having found him give him the worship and the honour due to him?

Or do we, like Herod, give a semblance of interest in Christ, but underneath are so filled with our own significance and our own insecurities that we are doing everything we possibly can to shut him out of our lives and our hearts and our minds?

Christmas has come. May we not miss it. God in Christ has come to us. May we receive him with joy.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2014