Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

When we send out birthday party invitations, it’s customary to allow plenty of time for folks to make the necessary arrangements to come to the party. But how much time is enough time? Two weeks, a month, maybe six weeks? Surely, two months would be enough time to respond to the invitation, wouldn’t it? Especially if it was going to be a party you really wanted to attend.

But, sadly, the day of the party arrives and everyone who was invited has not responded. Oh, there will be some who show up just out of curiosity. They’ll hang around for a while, then leave before the cake and ice cream are served. But you’ve made all the preparations and when the time is right, the celebration begins. There are favors all around for everyone who responded and accepted the invitation to the party.

Today is Christmas Day. The time we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. There’ll be some who celebrate for the wrong reasons. And there’ll be others who don’t come to the party at all. But the invitations were sent out in plenty of time. We can’t use that for an excuse.

In fact, the invitations to the celebration of the birth of Jesus were sent out 700 years in advance! That’s right seven hundred years before the time was right for His celebration, God told the prophet Isaiah to tell the world about it. The world was in darkness. Bad stuff going on everywhere. Oppression on all sides. Sound familiar? But then, God’s big announcement came through His prophet Isaiah. Check it out.

Isaiah 9:1 begins with this word, “Nevertheless.” Meaning that, in spite of all the bad stuff happening in the world at that time, ‘there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.’ That’s what I call Christ-mas Hope. Read on. In verse 2, Isaiah foretold that people would be walking in darkness and would see a great Light; and it would ‘shine on those living in the land of the shadow of death.’

And then Isaiah predicted the joy that the world would know on that day. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” (Isaiah 9:6).

Remember now, this was 700 years before the ‘Miracle in the Manger.’ But even when that day arrived, there were lots of people who missed it. They were so caught up in all the hustle and bustle of the time, they didn’t realize what was happening at the barn. I repeat, does that sound familiar?

Fast forward now, seven hundred years and find the folks who responded immediately to their invitation. It was a Special Delivery. Same Day Service, if you will. The Lord’s messenger told the lowly shepherds that the time was right. “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord,” (Luke 2:11). And their RSVP is found in Luke 2:16. They hurried off, right then and there, to find Mary and Joseph and the Baby Jesus in that first live Nativity Scene.

Jester Hairston penned these words about what the shepherds saw. “Long time ago in Bethlehem, so the Holy Bible says, Mary’s Boy-Child Jesus Christ was born on Christmas Day. Hark now, hear the angels sing, a new King’s born today, and we will live forevermore – because of Christmas Day.”

Now hit the fast forward button again. It’s over two thousand years later. The angel said, ‘in the town of David,’ but what about our town? Is Jesus in our town, too? On our street, in our house, in our hearts? The invitation is still open. But we don’t know for how long. The angel said ‘Today.’ And the shepherds didn’t waste any time responding. They made a bee-line for Bethlehem! And when they saw Jesus, they shared their joy with everyone they met!

Almost three hundred years ago, Isaac Watts put into words what the shepherds must have been felt: “Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, and Heaven and nature sing, and Heaven and nature sing, and Heaven, and Heaven and nature sing.”

From the Woodshed, Helen and I pray that your hearts and your homes are filled to overflowing on this Christmas morn with the joy, peace, and love that only comes from accepting the Savior’s Special Delivery Invitation. Merry Christ-mas!