Much in Common

Despite the irritation of the season, we share treasures across time... by Commissioner David Hudson

I have some very special memories of Christmas. One that stands out is the second Christmas after Sharron and I were married. Sharron’s parents were coming to visit us in Klamath Falls, Oregon, and we decided that we would wait to purchase our tree until they arrived on Christmas Eve—mainly because of the busyness of the season and because we wanted to spend time as a family decorating the tree. We didn’t think it would be a problem finding a tree last minute and we assumed it would be less expensive if we waited.  

We couldn’t have been more wrong about that. After picking up our family at the airport, we began the hunt. Lot after lot displayed closed or “see you next year” signs. Finally, we came to a lot that had two trees leaning against a fence. The first was broken about a foot from the top. The second looked somewhat better, at least from a distance; however, as we got closer, we noticed it only had a few branches on three sides. With few options, I asked the employee how much he wanted for one of the trees. He looked at me rather curiously and said, “Are you kidding? You can have it!”

So, the four of us returned to our home and with the small box of Christmas decorations accumulated from our year-and-a-half of marriage, began to decorate the tree. We had to limit the ornaments to only the smallest and lightest, as the branches could not support “normal-sized” ones. Even with our limited supply of decorations, we had more than enough, as we only decorated three sides of the tree. I had to tape the tree to the wall to keep it from falling over. 

Some may think it’s odd, but that Christmas with our “Charlie Brown Tree” has become a treasured memory to us and one that immediately comes to mind when we think of Christmases past. 

I often wonder what memories stayed with those in Bethlehem the night Jesus was born. 

We know the story so well. We know the list of characters; we’ve seen them in plays and read of them in Scripture. What would have been their memories of that fateful night?

How would the innkeeper remember that night? Maybe he remembered the baby being born, the visit of the shepherds and the celebration. He may have made time to share in some of the excitement.

After all, this would have been an unusual event. But then, he had a business to run and guests to serve. We are sometimes hard on him, but he did find a place for Mary and Joseph. While Bethlehem was the hometown of Joseph’s family, no one, including family members, had room for the expectant parents. Or, perhaps they were ashamed to be seen with Mary, who would have conceived out of marriage. 

What about the other guests staying at the inn, what would they recall? Some may have been excited about the birth of a baby; however, my guess is that most, especially those wanting to sleep, were irritated by the loud singing and the excessive noise. I wonder how many complaints the innkeeper received that night.

The memory of that night must have remained with the shepherds the rest of their lives. The night began as any other night, as they were on a hillside watching their sheep, there was the awe-inspiring sight of heavenly creatures all around singing and praising God about the birth of a child. They would have been among the first to see the Christ Child. How could they not have been changed forever by that?

We share so much in common with the people of the first Christmas. Many of us are like the guests staying at the inn. The season brings good things, yet we get irritated by the crowds, commercialization and seemingly endless number of parties. By mid-December we just want the season to be over. The distraction of the external robs us of the importance of the message of the season—God’s limitless love for us.

Perhaps some identify more with the innkeeper. The season brings so many good things. Yes, we’re busy, but we love the festive nature of Christmas and are excited giving and receiving gifts. Yet, in the midst of the celebrations, Jesus is pushed to the background. We may have a place for Him, but to be honest, it is in the stable (anything less than first place) of our heart.

Or, maybe we are like the shepherds. While we may never fully understand the significance of that night, we know the birth of Jesus is something spectacular and, for those who receive His love, a life-changing event.  

Regardless of how they remembered that night, the fact is that it was a night that changed the world. A night that God’s redeeming grace, motivated by His love, placed His only Son in the care of a young couple. And on a hillside outside of Bethlehem came the announcement to the world that, “…God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”