The ice of winter had barely melted off a nearby lake when a 7-year-old Michigan boy decided to do some boating. His craft was half of an oil drum he found along the shore, and his oar was a battered snow shovel. The boy's makeshift paddle worked so well that he got to the middle of the lake, but then the drum began to take on water. Fortunately, neighbors heard his cries for help, and he was rescued just in time. Once more, a youngster learned the hazards of a "boys will be boys" experience.
What did they call Zacchaeus in his hometown of Jericho? Most folks recognized him as the chief tax collector. The Romans may have identified him with a number. He was merely one cog in the huge machine that brought revenues pouring into Rome. Zealots in Israel spoke of him as a traitor because he had sold out to the enemy. Others in the community may have called him names behind his back.
Day after day, the loving father came to the hospital, often with flowers in his hand. He would sit beside the bed of his comatose 6-year-old daughter, talking to her about the wonderful world outside her window. Sometimes he would tell her a story. But in her unconscious state, the only sound she ever made was her labored breathing.
Why do we celebrate Jesus' birthday so differently from other birthdays? When it's time to honor historical figures who have a day set aside for them, we don't think about them as babies. We don't have pictures of cute little Abe Lincoln in his log cabin in Kentucky. No, we remember him for his contributions as an adult.
The words "there was no room for them in the inn" remind me of a family trip many years ago. We had been traveling all day, and I was trying to find a motel where we could spend the night. As we drove along the highway, our hopes were dashed time and again by the sight of No Vacancy signs. As a father, responsible for the well-being of my family, I was frustrated and discouraged.
Two passages in Luke related to the birth of Jesus are often called "songs" because of their similarity to Hebrew psalms of the Old Testament. The early church set them to music and used them in worship. One of them, the Magnificat of Mary (1:46-55), is well known. But the second "song" is a less familiar poem of praise, which was spoken by Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist (vv.67-79).