No offense, but the Christmas story is not long enough.
Have you ever read a series of books, gotten to the end and felt a certain amount of righteous indignation that the author seemed to quit or take a snack break at the most inopportune moment? Their writing or plot was just so stinking inviting that you couldn’t wait to read one more sentence but alas, they settled down for a long winter’s nap to dream up more storyline for you to read…NEXT year.
I love and hate this kind of anticipation all at the same time. I love that someone can engage my interests at that level, but hate that the author is the only one who can satisfy my eagerness for the rest of the story.
I feel this way when I read the Christmas story.
It’s important for me to reread and process the nativity narrative in December. But fifty-some Christmases into this earthly existence and I kinda wish there was more.
Seriously, I want more Jesus.
I want the rest of the details. I want to know who else was on the road, how long they stayed in Bethlehem, what was Mary’s mama’s reaction that might have sent Mary seeking support from Elizabeth? Did Mary even have a mama, or a papa? Exactly how bad did the shepherds smell, how freaky was it to have strangers visiting in your postpartum recovery? Did Joseph have any strange cousin Eddies traveling with them, did he have any local family since Bethlehem was his home city to register, why couldn’t he get better reservations, did he feel like a miserable failure, and why couldn’t he protect Mary from weird shepherd guys showing up?
I have lots of questions.
But by the third day in December, I have usually marched my way through the Matthew and Luke accounts of Jesus’ birth and despite all my efforts to dig out more truth, I find myself reading past it. In quick order, I am into Jesus teaching on a mountain.
Matthew 5:1 (NIV)
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.
“His disciples came to him…”
Yep. This is Christmas.
Here we are a zillion years later, remembering and realizing that we can come to him.
We must come to him.
We may not get a starry night filled with angelic choruses; we may find ourselves sitting near a Christmas tree where the lights keep going out strand by strand, day by day (or maybe that’s just me); perhaps just hoping to get through this holiday that seems joyous for everyone else except us.
But we can come to Jesus.
I am not a biblical language scholar but I can learn from those who are. And the word on the street is that “came” means “to approach” or “draw near.” This is not specifically a Christmas behavior. But it is the answer I am seeking this year. I wanted more and Jesus delivered. Multiple times in his account of the gospel message, Matthew writes that “his disciples came” to him. Jesus’ Instagram and Twitter followers “came.” They scrolled, they searched, they read the comments and drew near to hear, to evaluate, to be comforted, to repent, and to follow.
Jesus is here.
He is waiting beneath the ever-dimming lights of our lives.
He is drawing us near.
He is surprising us with the imperfection of the Christmas gathering.
He invites us to approach.
His first message to us, like it was in this scripture, may be a word of comfort and encouragement. And it will be followed with teachings that may be less easy to hear. But we won’t get any of it, if we don’t draw near.
Like the disciples, like the shepherds, like Mary and Joseph; we don’t have to understand it all. We don’t have to know how it’s all going to go down. We don’t even have to grasp the significance of what we are experiencing right now.
We simply get to draw near and embrace his presence.