Nativity scenes are great. They never cease to inspire in us a sense of wonder. Sadly we see fewer and fewer of them in a public venue. I think it is well within the realm of possibility that the toddlers of today may live to see the day when their little children will ask them. Who are those people in the stable and who is that baby?
As many of you know, the recent shootings in Colorado Springs had special significance for our denomination and for me personally. Our president, Jack Hayford, was the guest speaker that morning. He was there to speak not only to the congregation of New Life Church, but to students from our satellite campus of The Kings Seminary. A number of my online students were there that Sunday morning and it is entirely possible that for those who died, Pastor Jack’s message was the last thing they heard.
Knowing this, I wanted to find out what he preached that day. He chose for his text, the account in Matthew’s gospel of the Wise Men following the star. He entitled the message, “A Heart For Christmas.”
His message was an exhortation to not allow our hearts to be hardened to the point where we lose our sense of wonder. Anyone could allow that some there that day may have already begun to protect their hearts by not opening up to new possibilities. This is the same Church, after all, that endured a national disgrace when their founding pastor, Ted Haggard, was forced to resign because of a tawdry sex scandal. Interestingly, I also had students taking my course during that painful event as well. I remember that many of them expressed the fear that after that event they would never be able to trust again.
In the story of the Wise Men coming to Jesus, there comes a point where the Bible says, “and they rejoiced exceedingly when they saw the star and followed it . . .” (my paraphrase). Once they came to the place where Jesus (now somewhere between one and a half and two year of age) and his family lived. Before a toddler, they fell prostrate and they opened their treasures and presented their gifts.
What those folks in Colorado heard that day was a message that we have to be on guard lest our hearts become hardened by the age in which we live and jaded by the failures and disappointment that come with living among fallen, frail human beings who are bound to fail us.
This morning I want us to examine ourselves. Have we allowed ourselves to become hardened to Christmas? If so, what can we do about it?