Several years ago, a young boy heard the circus was coming to town. He’d never seen a circus, so he asked his dad if he could go. Reluctantly, the dad told him he didn’t think they could afford to buy a ticket. However, if the young boy could pick up some odd jobs and earn half the cost of admission, the dad would pay the rest.
So he raked leaves, cleaned gutters, cut shrubs and earned his half and was able to buy a ticket for the circus.
When the big day arrived, the boy found his spot on Main Street and with great excitement joined the crowds that lined the street eagerly watching for the start of the circus parade.
Here it came. He saw lions, tigers, performers, elephants, wagons filled with animals, jugglers, and others marching down the street. Then at the end came the clowns waving to the crowd. The boy was thrilled to death, and as the last clown marched by, he stepped into the street, and handed the clown his ticket, and went home.
Later, when his dad came home from work, he described all the sights and sounds of the circus parade and told his dad he gave his ticket to the clown passing by.
His dad suddenly realized his son’s confusion, looked him the face and said, “Son, I’m sorry to tell you, but today you watched the circus parade, but you completely missed the circus.”
We have a decision to make on this last Wednesday of November. As we recover from this round of turkey and dressing, we must determine the focus of this year’s Christmas celebration. Will this Christmas be all about Jesus, or will it be about something else? Will our Christmas be about the parade that leads up to Christmas day, or will it be about what Christmas is really about? Where will our emphasis be?
Wouldn’t it be tragic to go through the entire lead-up to Christmas and then, after it’s over, realize that you missed celebrating Christmas altogether?
Too often we’re like this civic club. Several years ago, the Lynn, Massachusetts, Exchange Club went all out setting up a luncheon to honor its “Policeman of the Year.” They invited the press and city officials, and urged every Exchange Club member to be present.
They had a nicer-than-usual lunch at a special location, and when it came time to start, the honored guest never showed.
Reached later in the day, the patrolman said, “I would have been delighted to go if only I had been invited.”
Isn’t it ironic that sometimes we put all this preparation into Christmas morning, but don’t give any thought to celebrating the birthday of Jesus? Isn’t it sad that it’s possible to leave Jesus out of the entire Christmas season, when Jesus’ coming is why we have Christmas to begin with?
Several years ago, as the Christmas season approached, a Western city reported a sad situation. The manger in their city park would be empty.
The ACLU had nothing to do with this one. Neither did any disgruntled citizen. It seems that the Christmas before, a thief had removed the baby from the manger scene. The missing baby had gone unnoticed until the last day when workmen came to dismantle and pack up the display for another year’s storage.
The other statues were safe. Mary, Joseph, shepherds, Wise Men, sheep, camels, angels – no one bothered them. Only the baby representing the newborn Christ child was missing.
City officials reported their loss and appealed for Jesus to be returned to the Nativity scene. In coffee shop talk and beauty shop visits, people across the city were asking, “Why would anyone do such a thing? This is an outrage.”
The thing is, people went about their business, and didn’t even realize that Jesus was missing. The central figure of Christmas was so neglected that His disappearance went unnoticed for days.
Is that something new? Do we not ignore Him the rest of the year, too?
What will we do with Jesus this Christmas? Honor Him? Worship Him? Neglect Him? Ignore Him? After all, isn’t it His day?
[Dr. David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church in Fayetteville.}