One of my favorite Christmas stories features a family
who knows nothing about Christmas. It's called "The
Best Christmas Pageant Ever." Barbara Robinson
The Herdmans were the worst kids in the whole history
of the world. They lied and stole and smoked cigars,
even the girls, and talked dirty and cussed their
teachers and took the name of the Lord in vain and
set fire to Fred Shoemaker's old broken down tool
They stole lunches, got in fights, never really bathed,
and were general trouble makers. The only place that
was "safe" from the Herdmans was church.
Having never been to church, they didn't know the
story of Jesus' birth. The only reason why they showed
up to church one Sunday -- and subsequently ended
up playing Mary, Joseph, the wise men, and the angel
in the church Christmas pageant -- was that they had
heard there was free food. They were not what you'd
call model citizens or Christians. And the townspeople
didn't want to have anything to do with them.
Yet, the Herdmans were the very type of people to
whom Christ Jesus reached out -- the people on the
fringe of society.
- Jesus declared himself as the Messiah first to
a Samaritan woman. Not only did the Jews consider
her inferior because she was a woman, but also because
she was a Samaritan who was of mixed blood. (John
- Jesus reached out to the lepers and healed them.
Lepers, people who had a skin disease, were ostracized
from society. Considered unclean, they had to stay
at least 6 feet away from others and ring a bell
warning others of their presence. They were outcasts.
- Jesus reached out and touched the eyes of the
blind man, enabling him to see. (John 9:1-7)
Jesus simply did not condemn others: "For God
sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world;
but that the world through him might be saved"
(John 3:17). He saved people by loving them. Rather
than condemn the woman "taken in adultery"
and allow her to be stoned, according to the law,
Jesus saved the woman. His words, "Neither do
I condemn thee: go, and sin no more" (John 8:11),
changed her life. Where other people saw sinners,
Jesus saw the children of God -- the men and women
as God created them. As a result, these people flocked
And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat
in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also
together with Jesus and his disciples: for there
were many, and they followed him. And when the scribes
and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners,
they said unto his disciples, How is it that he
eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?
When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that
are whole have no need of the physician, but they
that are sick: I came not to call the righteous,
but sinners to repentance. (Mark 2:15-17)
The sinners' lives were changed. In their humility,
they were touched by Jesus' love and forever transformed.
How sad it was that there were those who let their
pride, ego, criticism, and fear prevent them from
feeling the healing touch of the Christ that provides
freedom to all. How sad that there are those who miss
the message of the Christ. How important then that
we open our hearts to be touched by the Christ and
not let pride, fear, or self-righteousness make us
blind and insensitive. Only to the extent that we
allow ourselves to be touched by the Christ can we
reach out with the Christly touch to help and heal
It's important to look at how we treat others who
are different -- the homeless man standing on the
street corner, the promiscuous high school girl, the
self-righteous individual in church, the gossipy relative,
the guys who constantly cuss and walk around with
low-slung pants, the sibling who always has to have
his or her way, the mentally or physically disabled.
Do we reach out to see them as God's children and
heal them, or do we judge and categorize them, stay
away from them, and thank God that we are not like
them? If we think that we cannot love them, then we
are missing the message of the Christ. Yet, the Christ
is what Christmas is all about.
When the shepherds learned of the Christ from the
"angel of the Lord," they were eager to
see and acknowledge the "Savior." Indeed,
"they came with haste and found Mary, and Joseph,
and the babe lying in a manger." Then they shared
the angel message of "good tidings of great joy"
with everyone. The message was for "all people."
(Read the account -- Luke 2:8-20.)
When Simeon, who was told he would not die "before
he had seen the Lord's Christ," saw the baby
Jesus, he affirmed, "For mine eyes have seen
thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the
face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles,
and the glory of thy people Israel." (Read the
story -- Luke 2:25-32.)
One of the beautiful things about the angel message
was that it was not exclusive; it was inclusive. Simeon
echoed this. And Jesus' teachings, practice, and life
reveal the all-inclusive nature of Love. Love knows
Jesus knew he was the light, showing all of us the
way to eternal life. Jesus declared:
- I am the light of the world: he that followeth
me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the
light of life. (John 8:12)
- I am the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6)
- I am come that they might have life, and that
they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)
And John tells us:
- For God so loved the world, that he gave his only
begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should
not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
While Jesus' ministry was to the Jews, he was the
"light of the world," demonstrating that
life is indeed "everlasting." Such a light
is attractive, powerful, and healing. The star that
shone so brightly and led the wise men to find Jesus
is symbolic of the "light of life." The
wise men knew how important this light was, as evidenced
by the journey they made and the gifts they gave.
They also were willing to listen to God warning them
not to go back to Herod, who planned and attempted
to kill the baby Jesus, who he thought was a threat
to his kingship.
It seems that there are many Herod thoughts around
that would like to kill the spirit of the Christ,
the spirit of Christmas. These thoughts might include
being upset with a family member, feeling stressed
by the Christmas shopping that isn't done yet, worrying
about money, feeling burdened by work, getting caught
up in gossip, or being challenged by those who taunt
us to believe God doesn't exist, or that our concept
of God is wrong, or that terrorism reigns supreme
and is just around the corner.
Well, we can either allow ourselves to be overwhelmed
by such Herod thoughts, or we can allow ourselves
to be overwhelmed by the Christ. We can continue to
follow Jesus. Among his other teachings, Jesus' Sermon
on the Mount explains how to follow him (Matt. 5-7).
The apostle Paul described the underlying theme of
Jesus' teachings when he wrote, "Love worketh
no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling
of the law" (Rom. 13:10). Everything that Jesus
taught centered around loving God, loving our neighbors
(everyone), and loving ourselves as God made us. In
his mountain-top sermon, Jesus shared with us:
- the Beatitudes -- the way to be humble, for the
humble are blessed;
- the way to treat others with the Golden Rule;
- the way to pray in sincerity and quietude, beginning
with "Our Father," not my Father;
- how to seek "the kingdom of God" rather
than to worry about food, clothing, helter, money;
- the importance of not judging;
- how to keep the spirit of the commandments and
not just go through the motions;
- what it means to have faith;
- his expectations of us: "Be ye therefore
perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven
is perfect" (Matt 5:48).
Jesus' message of love gives light to our path. If
we truly understand the meaning of Christmas, then
we will enjoy following in Jesus' footsteps. We will
do what he asks of us. We will put God first in our
lives and live a life of love, which includes everyone.
Jesus did say, "Ye are the light of the world"
(Matt. 5:14). He didn't keep the light to himself.
He didn't think that he was the only one capable of
expressing the light of life. He expected us also
to live a life glorifying God and to share our light.
Jesus expected a lot of us. He declared, "Verily,
verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the
works that I do shall he do also; and greater works
than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father"
(John 14:12). Are we doing the works that Jesus did?
Are we doing greater works?
We certainly have our work cut out for us. But it's
glorious work, enriching work, and often hard, difficult,
and "alone" work to understand, demonstrate,
and share the gift of eternal life. But there's a
"secret" that will make our work easier.
The angel who told Mary that she was going to carry
Jesus, revealed to her an empowering, spiritual fact:
"For with God nothing shall be impossible"
(Luke 1:37). What an amazing sense of freedom, humility,
and security that gives us! If we let God take charge
of our lives, nothing is impossible. Turning our lives
over to God may sometimes be difficult, but it's worth
it! It takes a great deal of humility. It's what Christmas
is all about.
The Herdmans must have felt very humble on Christmas
Eve as they experienced just a little bit of what
it might have felt like to be at the manger where
Jesus was. The tears were real that ran down Imogene
Herdman's face as she, playing "Mary," cradled
the doll. Gladys Herdman, who played the "Angel,"
felt and communicated the thrill and the joy of bearing
the good news of Jesus' birth. The "Wise Men,"
Leroy, Ollie, and Claude Herdman, gave the baby Jesus
their welfare ham. While it may have looked silly,
the ham was a gift far more precious, sincere, and
generous than any other "more appropriate"
gift could have been. And everyone from the town,
who was sitting in the audience expecting this Christmas
pageant to be the "worst" because the Herdmans
were in it, felt something "different" --
something that they had not felt before, and they
said it was the "best" pageant ever.
Are we willing to be like the Herdmans and give away
our "ham"? Are we willing to see the Christmas
story for the first time? Willing to see Jesus' life
differently? Are we willing to give our best to church,
to our friends, to our families, to God, and to feel
the power of the Christ? Willing to be like the wise
men and acknowledge the light, search for the light,
value the light, and protect the light? Willing to
be like the shepherds who hurried to find the Savior
and then shared the good news with others? Are we
willing to be like Jesus and give our lives to God?
Our prayer at Christmas might naturally be: may we
be willing to have our lives touched by the transforming
power of the Christ so that we can touch the lives
of others with love -- especially the lives of the
"outcasts" -- and so follow the path Jesus
laid out for us. May our Christmas be full of Christly
8 And there were in the same country shepherds
abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and
the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and
they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold,
I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall
be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David
a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find
the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude
of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace,
good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away
from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another,
Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing
which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph,
and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad
the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things
which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them
in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising
God for all the things that they had heard and seen,
as it was told unto them.
25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose
name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout,
waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy
Ghost was upon him.
26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost,
that he should not see death, before he had seen the
27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and
when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do
for him after the custom of the law,
28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God,
29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace,
according to thy word:
30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all
32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory
of thy people Israel.