The packages have been opened, the dinner has been completed, there are still left over desserts and everyone is back in their own homes. That is, unless people are on the road travelling to see relatives. And that’s probably not such a good thing today, because there are blizzard warnings across the state and everyone is hunkering down for snow overnight. That means that businesses could be closed and we could get up to 9″ of snow tomorrow.
I’m sure that the retail stores aren’t all that excited about the weather report either. After all, the news has been quite clear that holiday sales seem to be down in Indiana as well as in other states across the midwest. Last minute shoppers were excited to be able to receive up to 70% discounts on purchases in the final days before Christmas. In fact, many people believe the last minute sales were better than the Thanksgiving sales about a month ago. And now, with all the left over merchandise, it would seem that retailers will be more anxious than ever to get rid of the inventory in deep discount sales. Only problem is, it may have to wait a day or two, at least here in central Indiana.
With the weather reports, neighbors have already been talking about taking down the Christmas decorations. If you are stranded indoors with nothing else to do, and shopping for bargains isn’t in the cards, why not take down the seasonal stuff? After all, when it’s over, it’s over, isn’t it? I know that Janet and I will try to get our stuff down this week-end after Jill, Tom and Drew leave, but I don’t think we will rush it on Wednesday. It just seems too soon to both of us. Sure, we don’t want our decorations up for a month or anything, and we don’t want the neighbors laughing at us because we have our tree up in July, but you get the idea. It’s over, but not quite over…
Notice that none of this has anything to do with the birth of Jesus. Isn’t that odd? The whole reason for the celebration and as soon as Christmas is over, we pack up the nativity and forget about it until next year. The truth of the matter is that the Good News of Jesus Christ is just getting started. Sure, the shepherds were in the fields, and the angels announced the birth of Jesus, but less than 24 hours in, very few people had seen or understood the message of the angels. The wise men were still probably a year away from seeing the baby Jesus and Joseph had not yet moved his family into a house, near the stable where Jesus was born.
In fact, the baby Jesus had not yet been dedicated at the temple. It was customary in that time for there to be a dedication of the oldest son and the circumcision of the child on the 8th day. None of this had yet occurred – it was still a week away. And if you have ever read the book of Luke past the story of the birth of Jesus, you’ll discover that Mary and Joseph were poor – they couldn’t afford the regular temple offering so they brought a pair of doves for the sacrifice. Some people believe that the normal sacrifice was an unblemished lamb, but Mary and Joseph were too poor for that, so they brought the doves. Truth is that they had the perfect lamb as a sacrifice, but as we all know, it wasn’t time for Jesus to be the sacrificial lamb of God until 33 years later.
Therefore, Christmas isn’t the end of the story – it’s the beginning of the story. And that means that when Christmas is over, the rest of the story is just getting under way. That’s great news for all of us. Way back in the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah foretold the birth of Jesus and all the great things that would come as a result of God’s decision to take on human form and come to earth as an infant.
Tonight’s verse recalls the words of Isaiah in announcing the future birth of the King of Kings. In Is. 9:6, we are told, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” See that? Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace… In other words, Jesus will never die but will live eternally. My encouragement this evening is that you should look at Christmas as the beginning of this incredible journey – not something to be put away until next year. My prayer is that you will remember that baby in a manger each day of the year. Because next year, one year from today, we get to re-live the whole event over again – because it’s never over – just beginning… Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…