“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2)
There’s a story that has become legend in a small southern Minnesota town. I can’t vouch for its truth, only that people tell it as though it really happened. It seems that a man who was retiring from his position as mayor was to be honored at a midwinter party as he left office. He had served for more than a decade during which he had been responsible for a number of significant improvements to the downtown area, and so it seemed good to have the community pay tribute to him.
The party was held at the VFW hall west of town, and all agreed it was a great celebration. The music was loud, the room crowded and noisy. The finger food was unusual in its quality and liquid refreshment was available without restraint until late into the evening.
Conversation the next morning over coffee in the Main Street diner was about what a wonderful event it had been, a fitting tribute. Someone wondered if the mayor had enjoyed it, but no one knew. No one in the diner had talked to him or, they discovered, had even seen him there.
After asking around, they learned that the mayor had checked into a hospital the previous day and had missed the party in his honor. It seems no one had noticed.
The parallel to our modern celebration of Christmas is all too obvious. People come together, the food is great, the music warms the heart, but has anyone seen the guest of honor?
The season has become about us; our menu, our travel plans, our expenses. We’ve lost perspective. The themes of Christmas are often forgotten. Perhaps our celebration might be more authentic if our hopes were not only for good sales figures but also for good will among mankind. Perhaps we might notice the Christ more truly among us if our prayers were not only for peace in travel but also for peace on earth.
Our church set out its nativity scene the other day. Life-sized figures of all the familiar characters are in place, kneeling around the manger, all but one. Seems the baby Jesus is missing. We couldn’t find him this year. Mary and Joseph and the Wise Men are gazing reverently at some wisps of straw.
Sign of the times. Hopefully the Christ child will be found by Christmas.