So, what is your favorite Christmas special that comes on every year? C’mon, there’s got to be one. Maybe it’s the show you watched as a kid, “Rudolph,” or “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown.” Or possibly it’s one of the classic movies that are etched into our Holiday Season. “It’s a Wonderful Life,” with a young Jimmy Stewart, or Jim Carrey’s take on the Dr. Seuss story from years ago in “The Grinch!” For me, my favorite has become “A Muppet Christmas Carol.” I think it’s because it was a favorite of our girls when they were younger, and even as they grew up it became the tradition to put up the tree and decorations while watching Michael Caine’s depiction of Scrooge being taken through Christmas past, present, and future by the Jim Henson Muppets. My guess is at some point this season, we will watch it again. What is the draw of these programs, that some of them have lasted for so many decades? Is it simply part of the tradition that we have come to expect? Or is there more to it than that? Could it be that some of these shows have stood the test of time because they are more of a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas than we might at first think?
• Ostracized runaway who is bullied, with no friends, leaves home and parents to hang out with the undesirables of life including an elf who doesn’t want to build toys, but wants to be a dentist. Even befriends folks on the wrong side of the tracks with names like abominable and misfit.
• Down & out round headed, pre-maturely bald boy, with no self-esteem picks the worst of trees for the Christmas production, to the absolute hilarity of his so-called friends.
• Investment Banker somehow loses everyone’s money and contemplates taking his own life and leaving his large family behind.
• Large and uncoordinated sub-human, living a lie and alone most of his life, endeavors to convince himself he is something else and must dredge up the past in order to confront and come to grips with who he really is.
• Miserly businessman, skeptical of everything and everyone. Loves his money, but never opens himself to love anyone and therefore doesn’t experience love from anyone, and sees holidays, especially Christmas as simply a nuisance to be endured not enjoyed. Humbug!
Yet all of these people – are saved by Christmas! Christmas comes along and somehow is able to rescue them from their catastrophic surroundings, and in some instances helps them to rise above who they have been to who they can be.
When it comes to the first Christmas, think of how many different types of people were involved. There are teenagers involved in the story; expectant moms and dads; engaged couples; busy business owners; those who are struggling financially; those who are seeking an answer; those who are wealthy; those who are poor; those with a lot of time on their hands; those with never enough hours in a day. When you read the prequel to Christmas in Matthew 1, you find numerous misfits, none of whom were on an island as toys, but actual people who somehow find themselves as part of the backstory to the Messiah’s birth. Wouldn’t you think that God could have orchestrated this better, done something to make sure at least a room was available, sent others to the stable rather than lowly shepherds, and since He was orderly enough to go 14, 14 and 14 generations in the lineage, could He not have used the presumed perfect of the Israelites history rather than the hodge podge of imperfects that dot the landscape? But maybe God knew the importance of everyone feeling like they could fit into the Christmas story. Maybe it was His desire to see the imperfects bring about the story of the perfect coming to bring peace and joy to a world and people that so desperately needed peace and joy.
So here’s the deal, friend. As you prepare, and clean and shop and decorated and shop some more, and hopefully go to church a bit more, remember, there will probably show up in your day, frightened teenagers, the engaged couple learning they will be a family rather than simply a couple, business owners needing a banner economic season but missing out on special moments in the process, those on the other end of the financial spectrum just looking to be part of anyone’s celebration, the charlie’s, the rudolph’s, definitely the grinch’s and scrooges and probably a few George Bailey’s thrown in. Offer to them the peace and joy that comes from Christmas. They may go from the season just as the shepherds did over 2000 years ago. They came as shepherds, and they returned as shepherds……….but they were different shepherds, because they had experienced an encounter with Jesus, and they would never be the same. Merry Christmas!