This Christmas Season, Don’t Miss Him
December 4, 2023

This Christmas Season, Don’t Miss Him

By T. Hardie, President

Frederick Buechner published a book in 1966, The Magnificent Defeat, containing a series of meditations and sermons delivered to his students at Phillips Exeter Academy. One I have been thinking about as we approach Christmas and the end of another year at the Foundation is entitled The Birth.  In his unique and imaginative style, Buechner presents the experiences of some of the participants at that first Christmas, and one hits home to me. The innkeeper was a busy man. Lots of people had come to Bethlehem, the town was crowded, the Inn was full and there were surely all the demands on his time that you would expect for an innkeeper at a busy time of year. He barely saw the young couple who approached late but he could tell that they were tired, they were poor, she was even pregnant and looked ready to deliver. But he couldn’t help them. So, he offered his barn for the night as a place to sleep and stay warm. That was all he could do.

Things happened that night. A baby was born, various people, shepherds even, came to see and marvel at this baby. There was a certain joy and amazement about them; more than you would expect normally at the birth of a baby. The innkeeper was busy with his duties and hardly noticed. Later, years later, his mind often went back to this night and he wondered. Buechner, speaking for the innkeeper now: “All your life long, you wait for your own true Love to come – we all of us do – our destiny, our joy, our heart’s desire. So how am I to say it, gentlemen? When He came, I missed him.”

This account makes my mind go back to that night too as we approach another Christmas, and I confess that when it does, I am stricken by the busyness of life and the duties we all have every day in the important work we do. We are occupied by those duties to the point we may be distracted from the beauty and wonder and glory of the creator God who came into the world so long ago. Have I missed my own true Love?  Did He come and I missed Him? When did He come into my experience and how could I have not seen Him? Was there light I did not see? Was I just distracted by the events of the world? Or was I expecting and hoping for something else?

Advent, a time of preparation and expectation, gives us time to pause and think about these things and resolve not to miss him. We encounter him in every one of our neighbors, every one of the people served by the organizations we support, every volunteer and staff member and every one of our colleagues in this work. Let’s not miss him and the light He brings through all of those He loves. Every time we do pause and consider God’s blessing to the world through His Son, we can live anew and experience the joy and wonder of His presence.

Buechner also notes the experience of the shepherds in the field. Their encounter was unmistakable.  We wish for such an encounter; a host of angels!  They ran to see the baby. “There He is.  You see Him?  You see Him?” We don’t often have this kind of experience but we can still be inspired by the exclamation Buechner imagines coming to us from the shepherds; “By almighty God, brothers and sisters, open your eyes.  Listen!” 

Merry Christmas to all.



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