The Christmas season is a wonderful time to be a believer— people are in a giving spirit, and a church, because of its founder, Jesus Christ, encourages its members to be especially devoted to serving the least of these, reaching out to the lonely and those more often forgotten. There is a state hospital in Richmond, and the church I served had a Sunday school class which hosted an annual Christmas party for one of the wards. The class planned entertainment, including a local dance studio where a tap dance group would perform, and recorded music such as “Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas” would be played. Elvis would sing about a “Blue, Blue Christmas” Santa would come, and cookies and punch served. After each dance or song was presented, the residents would politely applaud. Then, perhaps remembering the real reason for Christmas, I was asked to read the Christmas story from the Bible. Those present were a humble gathering of many young adults who were what might be called “slow” or “developmentally disabled”. But I wasn’t prepared for the response I got to the reading of Luke’s account. They applauded!
I had read the accounts of Christ’s birth many times in church, and never drawn applause, or even an “Amen, brother” from a Baptist that might be visiting that Sunday. I thought of how the humble folk at the state hospital had perhaps become conditioned to respond to everything presented with applause. But as I looked out at the simple faces of those present, I have since come to the conclusion “No, God is using these humble folk to teach us a lesson. The coming of Jesus to be born to a common couple not in a palace, but a stable, to first announce that birth not to nobility and religious leaders, but to blue collar shepherds, that is a story worthy of applause! “
That God came into the world not to condemn the world, but to offer the world grace, forgiveness and love, is well deserving our applause, and far more!