When I was a young boy, my grandmother had a little book from which she would read to us, her grandchildren, each Christmas. That book, published in 1954, The Salty Tang, was a collection of sermons by Frederick Speakman, a Presbyterian minister. The sermon, from which the book is titled, imagined the gospel writer, Luke, finding the Bethlehem innkeeper, who was now living in Jericho. In the sermon, Luke has a conversation with this man. During the conversation, Luke asks the innkeeper about that particular night, the night that Jesus was born. The innkeeper silently stares into the distance then eventually replies. Please read his response, very carefully:
“That couple was like so many that I turned away that night. The city was full. There were no rooms to be found.Everyone was busy and tired and complaining about taxes. How do you know the greatest moments when they come? The great hours. The shining hours. The ones that mean so much. They come walking up to you in the times you are so very busy – the times you are so convinced that what you are doing is so important that nothing must stand in your way. And you let them pass, never knowing what might have been”.
Every Christmas, that story comes to my mind and I always wonder, “Did that man, an anonymous innkeeper, come to realize the significance of that baby who was born that night? And if he came to know who Jesus was and what He did, how did that man live with the regret of having turned Joseph and Mary away? How did he live with the knowledge that he missed the most significant event of human history?”.
The question asked in that imaginary conversation is one that you and I need to ask ourselves, this Christmas: “How do you know life’s greatest moments when they come?”. Some of those great moments will happen, over these coming weeks. Some of those moments that mean so much are available for us to experience, right up through Christmas Day. Will you and I be so preoccupied, so busy, so overwhelmed by so many things to do, that we miss the sheer joy of making memories with family and friends … memories that can last a lifetime? When it’s all said and done, will you and I live with the pleasure of the memories that are made or the regret of the opportunities we let pass by?
That innkeeper, often considered the “villain” of the Christmas story, isn’t really unlike many of us. Because of the Roman census, there was money to be made as lodging was in high demand. Surely he was frustrated that so many had come to his inn, seeking lodging, but had to be turned away because he had no more room. He was busy. He was overwhelmed. He was probably agitated. And now, this husband, with a very pregnant wife, shows up at his door, pleading for lodging … lodging that he couldn’t provide. Nonetheless, he was so busy and so overwhelmed that he missed the most significant event and the birth of the most significant Person in human history.
Today, studies have revealed that only one in ten of us will actually, “hit the pause button”, and enjoy the Christmas season and experience the wonder of the true meaning of Christmas – the birth of Jesus. In other words, the overwhelming majority of us will trade celebration for frustration and enjoyment for exhaustion and be left with the knowledge that we missed some of life’s greatest moments.
I hope you’ll choose to be, “radical.” I hope you’ll choose to, “buck the norm.” I hope you’ll choose to be different. I hope you’ll choose to “hit the pause button” and grasp the great moments that these days will present. Make the cherished memories. Enjoy the time with family and friends. Savor the moments that you may never again have with those whom you love. Choose to live with the satisfaction and pleasure of memories made, not the regret of opportunities missed.
Above all, I encourage you to intentionally choose to remember the true meaning of this incredible time of the year, as expressed in the Bible, in John 3:16-17: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him”.
Faron Rogers is the Senior Pastor of Clinton’s First Baptist Church