“He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.’’
Welcome to Adventist Review’s Retro Christmas
In this short series over the holidays, we’ll be bringing you Christmas articles from years past. Why explore vintage Adventist Review? Because the reason for the season never changes. So sit back and join us as we revisit Christmas from the pages of Adventist Review. Perhaps what you read and hear will be nothing new, or maybe, just maybe, these thoughts on the miracle of the Savior coming to us as a baby will ignite or reignite something beautiful in your heart. From our Adventist Review Ministries family to yours, blessings for a beautiful Christmas season.—Enno Müller, news editor
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angle of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid…. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord’ ” (Luke 2:8-11, NIV).
Every Christmas as I read again the story of the Savior’s birth, I try to glean at least one new thought from the familiar narrative. This year the point jumped out at me that God has time for us.
Conceivably, Jesus could have come as a fully grown person — like Adam, for instance — and in a matter of days or weeks at the most, done whatever needed doing for our salvation. But instead, God gave Him to us for a whole generation, so to speak — to live, to experience, to suffer with us. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us’’ (John 1:14, NIV).
And He began that sojourn among us in the most inauspicious place: a manger, a stable, for we had no room for Him. No room for Him, and no time, either. “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him’’ (John 1:11, NASB).
Our Hurried Pace
It’s happening still today. No, we’d never turn Him away — not in person, anyway. But we encounter Him in the person of the poor, the homeless, the naked, and all who hurt. “He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside, He came to those men who knew Him not.”1 And we turn our faces from Him still—not necessarily because we’re bad people, but because we’re so very busy.
But even very busy people usually make time for persons with clout, those who have a title to their name. An acquaintance of mine, whose first name is Dean and who lives near one of our large educational institutions, tells amusing stories about how red tape clears away, and doors to important people open up to him, upon the mention of his full name over the phone.
But the wizardry of modern technology can frustrate even that approach. In many places it’s difficult to get a real person on the other end of the telephone line. Programmed answering machines are the order of the day. And even when one manages to get real people on the line, nonverbal signals of hurry and impatience surface quickly. There is a tone of voice that says, “Let’s get on with it. I’ve very busy.”
Yes, it’s a dreadfully time-conscious, clout-conscious, impersonal world in which we live. And I often wonder what this all means for hurting people seeking urgent help, for lonely people, for people in distress, for people who have nothing.
God Has Time
But we count with God. Whoever we are — rich or poor, weak or powerful — we rate with Him. He has time for us. When we dial heaven, there is never a busy signal, never an answering machine. Heaven’s lines are always open, and God is always home — always waiting for our call.
That’s the message I took this year from the Christmas narrative. It’s probably not all there, but I thought I found it in the story of the shepherds. Bypassing kings and emperors, the rich and famous of this world, the intellectual luminaries of Greece and Rome and China, God came to humble shepherds, nameless and unknown, as they kept watch in the open fields.
Gabriel himself, who stands in the living presence of God, appeared to them.2 They were the only audience for the premier performance of the most glorious anthem ever heard by mortal ears — “Glory to God in the highest” — sung by a celestial choir that stands before the King of kings! Few choirs today would not consider it a sheer waste of time to prepare an anthem for an audience of such caliber. But heaven pulled out all the stops — just for shepherds!
I Was Moved
Everyone else had left for the day, and the phones were silent in the Adventist Review office as I reflected in solitude on the enormous implications of this aspect of the Christmas story. I found my heart strangely moved. Perhaps it was the silence of the place. Perhaps unconsciously it had to do with something that might have happened to me during that week. I do not know. But the story got to me. The story of the sheer love and appreciation of God for the little people of this world—the poor, the destitute, the marginalized. Shepherds! He had time for them!
As I sat there in my office writing, the tears (I admit it only with reluctance) flowed freely—tears of joy and deepest gratitude, to think that we have such a God! “ ‘Herein is love.’ Wonder, O heavens! And be astonished, O earth!’’3 God has time for us!
This article originally appeared in Adventist Review in December 1992.
1. Albert Schweitzer, The Quest for the Historical Jesus (New York: Macmillan, 1961), 403.
2. Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, 780.
3. White, The Desire of Ages, 49.