It always feels good to be invited! You may have been invited to a Christmas party at work or school or even to a neighbor’s home. On the other hand, if we haven’t been invited to a special occasion like this, it can also be discouraging. We can all think of times when we didn’tfeel included, invited, or welcomed. If you happen to be the one throwing a party this year, there is also the pressure of figuring out whoyou are going to invite. You may not get along personally with someone that you know you should invite. On the other hand, you may not want to attend a party where that difficult person is certainto be present. Of course, simply because we get an invitation does not mean we are able to attend. The party may not be scheduled when we can make it. There are inevitable schedule conflicts, and during this season we can feel overly busy and tired of all the social occasions. Going to a Christmas party may be the last thing we want to do.
The story of Christmas begins with a series of unexpected invitations. A young woman, probably less than 15 years old, is invited to be the mother of the Christ Child (Luke 1: 26-38). Strange, that the invitation should come to a teenager from Nazareth, a tiny town in the north that is never even mentioned in the Old Testament. Likewise, the shepherds receive a special invitation out in the fields of Bethlehem, watching their flocks by night (Luke 2: 8-20). The most unlikely guests to any party in Judea would have been shepherds. King Herod, the ruler of Judea at the time, would never have included such “D-listers” in his social circle. Shepherds weren’t allowed one foot in the Temple let alone attendance to a royal banquet. Who would want these smelly guys around? Yet they are the first to be invited, aside from Mary and Joseph!
This Christmas we are again invited to celebrate greatest event in world history – the Incarnation of God, when the infinite became an infant, and the One who rules the cosmos was born in a cave, and laid in a common feeding trough for animals. The beauty is that all of us are invitedto attend this celebration – not a single one left out. “For God so loved the worldthat he gave his only Son….” (John 3:16). He came for the world, and he invites the world to receive him…the Light of the World and the Prince of Peace. Many will decline the invitation this Christmas, of course. Some will say they are once again too busy, or have better things to do. Others will excuse themselves when they see the guest list, not wanting to be associated with the wrong kind of people. Still others will sadly think they are unfit to attend, like those unkempt shepherds out in the fields. Yet the story of Jesus’ birth makes it clear that God delights in us. From the “up and ins” to the “down and outs,” from the wisest men to working men, and women, from every nation and background, there are no “ordinary” people in God’s eyes. Each of us is unique, each of us is beloved, each of us welcomed into his circle of grace!
Friends, I pray that each of us will stop and consider what it will mean for us to respond to Jesus’ invitation. What will it mean for us to seek his extraordinary grace? What will it mean to associate with his people, to accept them and love them as God has accepted us? What will it mean to make time for the Christ of Christmas, to honor Him, to celebrate his coming? We may give and receive gifts in His name, or choose to serve and help others as He served us. We may tell someone, as the angels told the shepherds, of that “good news of great joy that is for all the people.” I invite you to make room in your hearts for the Prince of Peace. It can begin with a simple act of obedience… worshipping with his people on Christmas Eve, or getting down on our knees and saying, “King Jesus…I accept your invitation. I thank you for showing me how to live, for giving your life for my sin on the cross, and for conquering death on the third day. Thank you for welcoming me into your forever family. I accept your Christmas invitation today.”