Theme: Missing the Birth of the Savior
In this week’s lessons, we examine people in the Christmas story who did not respond to the birth of Christ as they should have.
Scripture: Luke 2:1-7
Few things in life are more tragic than having missed something important for no good reason. Yet this is the experience of many, many people. Early in June 1944, the German general Rommel was strengthening the fortifications of the beaches of western France against the imminent Allied invasion of Hitler’s Europe. This was the Rommel who had gained fame as a military strategist in North Africa. He was convinced that in this stage of the war if the Allies should ever gain a foothold in France the war would be lost for Germany. He had done much to put the defenses in readiness, but as the first week of June drew to an end and the weather off the Atlantic coast grew worse, Rommel felt that he could spare a few days away from the feverish action. It was the birthday of his wife on June 6, and he had a birthday present for her.
Consequently, he left the front on the fifth of June and was in Berlin with his family when the Allied invasion came on the next day.
Here was a man who had sensed the importance of this, the greatest single military invasion in history. He had prepared for it. But when it came he was busy with other things and missed his opportunity. In the confusion of that important day the combined British and American forces gained their toehold on the coasts of Normandy and were then able to push onward to the Rhine and the eventual destruction of the Third Reich.
I believe that the experience of Rommel has been the experience of many persons throughout history. But of all these experiences, perhaps none has been more tragic than that of the men who missed Christmas. When I speak of the men who missed the first Christmas, I am speaking of the men who missed the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. And yet, in another sense I am also speaking of many who miss Christmas today. These men miss the most important things in life, and yet—here is the tragedy— there is no good reason why they should miss it.
The first of the men who missed Christmas was quite obviously the innkeeper. The Bible does not mention this man explicitly. Probably by the time the story of the birth of Jesus Christ was put into writing no one remembered who he was. There was no reason to remember him. Still there certainly was an innkeeper, for when the Bible tells us that Mary “brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7) the verse implies the existence of this man. The point of the reference is that in the hustle and bustle of the season the innkeeper missed the most important birth in history.
He shouldn’t have missed it, of course. He shouldn’t have missed it simply because he was so close to it. The decree of the emperor Augustus brought the family of Jesus to his town, Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph stood on his doorstep, perhaps even entered his waiting room, stood before his desk. The child was born in his stable, almost under his nose. And yet his preoccupation with his business kept him from it.
Who is the first person mentioned in the study to have missed the birth of Christ, and what is the supposed reason?
Why should he not have missed it?
Reflection: Concerning your Christian life, did you ever miss doing something important when you could have easily done it? What were the consequences for yourself or for other people?