(This "Chapel Talk" was delivered at Lubbock Christian University in January 1998.)
Welcome back! I hope that your Christmas was as good as mine was. I enjoy Christmas -- the trees and the lights and especially the cookies and the gifts. I also like the Christmas story and believe that it is a good thing that people all over the world celebrate His birth. Although, with all of the commercialism, I wonder how many have really seen the Christ child. And sometimes I wonder how many Christians know Him -- have seen and felt and touched the wonder of God becoming a man. It is so easy to pass by a plastic baby in a nativity scene and give no thought to what He really means.
The Presentation of the Lord at the temple, the next recorded event after His birth, will be remembered in some churches the first of February. And again I wonder how many will see Him. With the apathy and "hohum" of many churches, one suspects that if the baby Jesus were actually there in person, manger and all, some still might not see Him.
And what about us? Chapel and our required Bible classes can be, for some, about as hohum as it gets. Even though this is a "Christian University," it is so easy to allow academic, extra-curricular and social interests to consume us. Where is the excitement for God, the passion for Jesus? One wonders by the way we act sometimes if we really get it. Last semester I saw someone in chapel during the prayer -- don't ask how I saw this -- I saw someone put his portable cassette player on top of his head. I don't want to be judgmental. Perhaps he didn't have anywhere to put it. At least it wasn't a hat, although our Bible majors know that an Atlanta Braves hat is all right -- it's scriptural. Others of us are not quite so blatant. Chapel, Bible class and other religious activities are just things that we do. If Jesus were presented in chapel, would we recognize Him?
Luke presents Jesus at the temple in a remarkable way. He is a special baby, but Jesus is not an actor in the story. He can't act; He is just a baby. What other characters in the story do and say, especially in the larger context of scripture, tells us who He is. And how others in the story respond to Jesus says that He is worthy of worship.
By this time in the story, as at the birth of Ishmael, Isaac, Samson and John, angels have announced His birth to Mary and the shepherds (Luke 1:26-38
; Luke 2:8-20
). The birth of my oldest daughter was announced on MASH Day 1983 -- February 28, the night of the last episode of MASH, one of the most watched television programs in history. JoAnn invited me out to a new French restaurant in town. After we placed our order, the waitress presented me with two carnations, one pink and the other blue. A note said: "Honey, you are going to be a wonderful father." I was taken back. I didn't know this lady. Was she trying to frame me, or what? When I was finally able to put two and two together, I bent over the table and gave her a big kiss -- JoAnn, not the waitress. The other patrons in the restaurant clapped. They got it before I did. A waitress announced the birth of our first child. The archangel Gabriel visited Mary and announced the birth of God's own Son. Laurel was announced, and I couldn't eat my dinner. Mary broke out in song and glorified God (Luke 1:46-55