The Three Tragedies of Christmas
A Jewish lady named Mrs. Rosenberg many years ago was stranded late one night at a fashionable resort - one that did not admit Jews. The desk clerk looked down at his book and said, "Sorry, no room. The hotel is full." The Jewish lady said, ;"But your sign says that you have vacancies." The desk clerk stammered and then said curtly, "You know that we do not admit Jews. Now if you will try the other side of town..." Mrs. Rosenberg stiffened noticeable and said, "I'll have you know I converted to your religion." The desk clerk said, "Oh, yeah, let me give you a little test. How was Jesus born?" Mrs. Rosenberg replied, "He was born to a virgin named Mary in a little town called Bethlehem." "Very good," replied the hotel clerk. "Tell me more." Mrs. Rosenberg replied, "He was born in a manger." "That's right," said the hotel clerk. "And why was he born in a manger?" Mrs. Rosenberg said loudly, "Because a jerk like you in the hotel wouldn't give a Jewish lady a room for the night!"/
Today, on this Sunday before Christmas, I want to spend these moments talking about 3 Tragedies of Christmas. When talking about Christmas and all the festivities Christmas brings, it doesn’t quite seem normal to be talking about the tragedies of Christmas. Christmas is my favorite holiday, bar none. I love the atmosphere, the festivities and gatherings, the food, the music. I don’t love the busy-ness so much.
There is nothing like peanut butter fudge, or cheese balls. We look forward to the time off, the time with our families. We remember those in need and we are ever mindful of those who have lost loved ones in the recent past.
But Tragedy and Christmas don’t exactly go hand in hand. Or does it? Turn with me if you will to the book of Luke. We will be reading from the 2nd chapter as we seek to identify the 3 tragedies of Christmas
1. In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.
2. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)
3. And everyone went to his own town to register.
4. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.
5. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
6. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
7. and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
1. The Tragedy in Bethlehem
Our first Tragedy today is that the Savior of the World, the creator of the universe, the son of God Himself, came as a baby, but not as a baby only. He was born in a stable and laid in a feeding trough because the culture of the day caused there to be so many people in town that there was no room for Him in the Inn.
Lets look at this for a moment. First the verse begins, In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree. Who was he?
It is ironic to me that Caesar Augustus was not born with that name. In fact, he was born Gaius Octavius Thurinus and was adopted by his uncle, Gaius Julias Caesar. So who was he to make a decree? In 27 BC the Roman Senate bestowed on him the name Augustus, which literally translated means Revered one.
The birth of our king begins with the decree from a man who was the adopted son, who bore the title revered one. I find that to be very ironic, don’t you?
Caesar, the first ruler of the Roman Empire, issued a decree that caused the entire kingdom to be counted. And Joseph, being from the town of Bethlehem in Judea had to travel there to be counted.
Where are you from today? How would you like it if President Obama said, I am the supreme commander of these United States, and so I say that everyone must return home to be counted. I do not care how much it costs, I do not care what hardship exists. You will go, because I say so.
I don’t think that would go over very well. For some of us, we simply go down to the courthouse because you have lived here all your life. Others of us would have to travel home to Florida, or New Jersey, or Connecticut, or Mexico, or the Ukraine, or wherever. Not nearly has difficult for us today, we spend a couple hundred bucks and buy airline tickets, or we jump in the car and break the bank with gas costs.
Joseph gathered his wife and suitcases and donkey and started walking.
And they weren’t the only ones. Hundreds, thousands made the pilgrimage to their home towns to be counted at the whim of the revered one.
And as they arrived at Bethlehem, Mary was no doubt uncomfortable. Imagine ladies, you are riding a donkey, with all its shifts and stops and starts, up and down, side to side. And you are about to delivery your first baby.
Mom isn’t there, the doctor isn’t there, the nurses aren’t there. There is no bed, no shelter. Only pain, and Joseph.
Joseph walked from building to building down the crowded streets. He had to be pleading for a place. I can imagine the desperation he must have felt for his wife who was in pain, was tired, and yet no place.
I remember the hopelessness I felt one day trying to find a place to stop for Amie who was sick when she was pregnant with Sarah. She wasn’t even about to have her, she just needed to get sick, and there was no place.
Would that anyone, anyone in that inn had seen the desperation in Joseph and had said, “I couldn’t help but notice you are a bit excited about your wife having a baby. I tell you what. You take my room. You need it more than me.”
But my friends, this didn’t happen. Selfishness ruled the day. The innkeeper saw the desperation because he provided his stable for the young family. But why did no one else step up?
A tragedy indeed. A surprise to God? No. It was within his plan and nothing ever takes him by surprise, but a tragedy that man’s selfishness crowded out the Savior’s birth.
2. The Tragedy in Today’s Society
Two women who were having lunch in an elegant hotel were approached by a mutual friend who asked the occasion for the meal. One lady replied, "We are celebrating the birth of my baby boy." "But where is he?" inquired the friend. "Oh," said the mother, "you didn't think I'd bring him, did you?" What a picture of the way the world treats Jesus at Christmas.
Today as we see people push and shove in retail store lines, as we hear of the financial strain of Christmas on family, the depression, the drunkenness, it seems that we have left the baby out, haven’t we? The Christ child that came in such a humble way, the Savior who would live a life of perfection and die on a rugged cross, we have said, “there is no room for you here Jesus.”
Don’t believe me?
The London Daily Telegraph reported in 2007 that A study has shown that January 8th is the busiest day of the year for divorce lawyers when up to one in five couples will inquire about divorce after the pressures of Christmas. The enforced intimacy of Christmas, coupled with the start of a New Year is thought to be the main trigger.
An online poll of people by a mental health charity found that respondents were stressed and anxious about repaying their Christmas spending. Here is a summary of the survey's findings:
19 percent of people felt less able to manage their mental health because of worries about paying off the cost of Christmas
25 percent were feeling depressed
20 percent will have problems meeting their rent or mortgage payments this month
Over 50 percent admitted they had spent more than they could afford on Christmas
39 percent used credit cards to cover the cost of Christmas
33 percent estimated that it would take them more than six months to pay off their Christmas spending debt
In December 1903, after many attempts, the Wright brothers were successful in getting their "flying machine" off the ground. Thrilled, they telegraphed this message to their sister Katherine: "We have actually flown 120 feet. Will be home for Christmas." Katherine hurried to the editor of the local newspaper and showed him the message. He glanced at it and said, "How nice. The boys will be home for Christmas." He totally missed the big news--man had flown!
And our society today is missing the big news. God purchased man’s salvation through sending his son, with humble beginnings, to die on a rugged cross.
As retail establishments make more and more, and forbid their employees from bidding Merry Christmas to their customers so as to not offend a massive minority. As the people for the Separation of Church and State and the ACLU continue to wage war against Christmas in our city square, we Christians remain largely silent, and we continue our patronage, going about our business as if nothing is wrong. Very similar to those other travelers in Bethlehem.
But our third tragedy is even worse than the first 2. It was God’s plan for Jesus to come as he did. He proclaimed the birth of the king through his messengers to the shepherds on a hillside. He provided the manger and the swaddling clothes for Mary to wrap her newborn child. He placed his star in the heavens to guide the foreign kings on such a long journey.
The first tragedy is easily explained.
The 2nd can be somewhat easily explained by the fact that the world does as the world does. We can’t expect lost people to act like saved people. That is a real problem with many Christians today. We expect lost people to live land behave like saved people when we don’t even do that ourselves.
When Christmas parties come, many lost people expect to get drunk. That is what they look forward to! When lost people see Christmas approaching, lost people think about themselves, their families, and to some degree, even people in need with no understanding of what God did on that first Christmas. That is what they do.
However, today I want to spend a moment talking with you about the third tragedy of Christmas. It is not explainable. It is worse than the other 2. For in it is the worst possible sin that mankind can commit. Are you ready for tragedy #3?
Tragedy number 3 centers around the hearts, and ears and minds of those who are sitting right here in this place today, who would hear the truth of the Gift that God offers you, and would leave this place saying there is no room in my heart and life for him.
Oh my friend, listen. God has given you an amazing gift. The most amazing gift. His son! Let me tell you how and why.
If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator; If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist; If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist; If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer; But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior.
Every one of us has done things that miss the mark. Every one of us has disappointed God with our thoughts, our actions, and our motives. We treat the 10 commandments like it was a document written some 4,000 years ago and makes no difference in our lives today.
We lie to each other, we lie to ourselves, and we lie to God. We lust after the possessions of others, we lust after other people. We slander others, we murder them with our thoughts and our anger.
But more than these, we place other things in the way of God. We place our own desires in the way of God. We say Never Surrender! Rather than giving our hearts to him. And we tell him that we have no room in our hearts for a relationship with him.
And yet, our greatest need was forgiveness, and whether we choose to accept his gift or not, he offers it just the same.
The gift I remember more than any other that I got as a kid was a watch. Not just any watch. I had wanted this watch that had a video game on it for months. I begged my parents for that watch and they just said no. But on Christmas morning, as we opened our gifts, I saw that watch. But the problem was, I didn’t open it. My mom did.
It was her watch. I was angry. I couldn’t believe it. I remember the photo my dad took to this day of the look on my face realizing that my mom got the watch I had begged for. But see, the watch wasn’t actually for my mom. They tricked me to see what my reaction would be. They definitely got a reaction. I snatched it out of her hand as she told me Merry Christmas.
My friends, there are no tricks with God, and the gift he offers is not just for everyone else. It is for you. Will you surrender your heart to him today? Come down here and let me pray for you. I will not embarrass you. But I would certainly hate to see this 3rd tragedy of Christmas happen in your life today when it can be avoided.