Joseph and Mary had to register and pay taxes. They had a 90-mile journey on a donkey.
The shepherds heard a heavenly announcement and hurried there. The wise men saw an unusual star which they interpreted as the heralding of a king’s birth. There were curious animals taking shelter in the same stable.
The little city where King David was born was more crowded than perhaps ever before in its history. The focus for most of the visitors was not the birth of a child.
Different reasons draw us together at Christmas — shopping, parties, family traditions, musical performances and neighborhood gatherings. We eat and drink, sing and swap stories with festive style. Lights decorate our houses and city street lamps.
Community trees have ornaments that remind us of those we love who are no longer with us.
Yet we may miss the focus on the baby from Bethlehem.
The stable still calls us from near and far. Some, like the innkeeper in Bethlehem, will not be able to find room for the birth of the child in our lives. Like him, when his inn could have been the birthplace of the Messiah, we may reflect on the opportunities we have missed at the Christmas season.
Some like King Herod will feel so threatened by the birth of this child that they struggle to remove all references to His birth’s celebration. “Happy Holidays” leaves out the reason for the season — the birth of the Christ Child.
But like the wise men, some will be moved to make gifts to those less fortunate and will bring a smile of happiness to the face of a child who otherwise might have missed having a present when others opened their Christmas treasures. A family will have warm clothes and be fed through the generous gifts prompted by the spirit of Christmas.
Many on the streets and in shops will find themselves smiling at a stranger and saying “Merry Christmas,” without thinking why they do.
All of us are born to a family. Families are universal and yet very personal. I will always remember Dec. 13, 1960. My wife gave birth to a beautiful little girl we named Joy.
She’s still almost as beautiful as her mother and brings us a special joy when we celebrate her birthday each year.
Even when we get a bit older, birthdays still call for celebration.
Christmas calls for that response too. We have a reason to celebrate — the birthday of a child. An Old Testament prophet reminded us that this special birthday was a sign, and the baby was to be called “Immanuel” (God with us.)
Perhaps that’s why Martin Luther called Christmas “the greatest day of the church year, when God became a man.”
Whatever draws your attention toward Bethlehem this year, don’t miss the implication that God Himself came there.
Why would God do such a thing? Perhaps he wanted his Son to experience what it was like to have a mother, to be part of a family. So he decided to be one of us at Bethlehem.
That’s the story but it goes on. “He came to His own and they did not receive Him, but to those who did, He gave the power to become the children of God, to ALL who believe on His name.”
His birth and his life become an invitation to each of us to become children of God.
That’s the joy of Christmas — I too can become part of God’s family.
Now’s that a reason to celebrate.
Dr. James Kilgore is a psychologist in Canton specializing in family and marriage therapy, author of 14 books and has served in various ministerial positions for more than 40 years.