We changed our church’s Christmas pageant this year. Normally, we cover everything about the life of Jesus—His birth, His ministry, His death, burial, and resurrection. This year, we decided to focus strictly on the events surrounding His birth.
A few days before the first performance, our church receptionist took an unusual call. A woman on the other line wanted to know if we were presenting the pageant again this year. Gail Smith assured her that we are. Then, the woman said, “May I ask if you’re going to include the part about the crucifixion of Jesus?” “I don’t think so,” said Gail. “I think they’re just doing the part about Jesus’ birth this time.”
“Good,” the caller said. “You see, we’re from another faith, and we always enjoy your Christmas program. But the part about Jesus’ crucifixion offends us and makes us uncomfortable. We would prefer the story without the crucifixion.”
When I asked our newlywed Sunday School class to share a favorite Christmas story from their family, Carrie Fuller said, “We have one we call the ‘brown bag Christmas.'” When she finished, I had to hear more. The next day, I called her mother for details. And that week, I phoned her grandmother in Texas.
It was the early 1930s during the Dust Bowl days of Kansas, in the heart of the Depression–ground zero for misery.
The Canaday family—Mom, Dad, 7 children—were having a tough time existing. There would be no luxuries at Christmas that year. Mom told the children to go outside and find a Christmas tree and decorate it. After a lengthy search, they returned with a dead branch, which they stood up in a bucket of sand and decorated with pieces of colored paper tied with string. Little Judy, almost four, did not know how a Christmas tree was supposed to look, but somehow she knew it was not like that!
As Christmas approached, the Canaday children, like little ones everywhere, pestered Mom and Dad about what presents they might get under their “tree.” Dad pointed out that the pantry was bare, that they did not have enough to live on, and there certainly would be no money for gifts. But Mom, a woman of faith, said, “Children, say your prayers. Ask God to send us what He wants us to have.” Dad said, “Now, Mother, don’t be getting the children’s hopes up. You’re just setting them up for a disappointment.” Mom said, “Pray, children. Tell Jesus.” And pray they did.
“….the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” –I Corinthians 2:8
Understand, Satan is a created being. He shares none of the attributes of Almighty God—not omniscience, omnipresence, nor omnipotence, meaning that he is limited in knowledge and space and power. When it comes to predicting what God is going to do next, he has to rely on what he can figure out, what he remembers from the timeless past when he resided in Heaven as a favorite angel, and what he reads in Holy Scripture. Since the Holy Spirit does not enlighten his understanding, he sees as the world sees, not with the mind of Christ. Once we understand this, a hundred puzzles fall into place.
The Apostle Paul pointed out that had Satan known what God was up to, he would never have crucified Jesus. One might say that God pulled the wool over the devil’s eyes and fooled him. On that first Easter Sunday morning, an imp rushed into the presence of his satanic majesty, interrupting the two-day celebration over the death of Jesus. The demon breathlessly announced that the tomb was empty, the body gone, and the soldiers looked like they had seen a ghost. Satan spewed out his champagne and cursed. He had been had and he knew it. He had played right into God’s hands and was defeated.
Sometimes in biblical history, we see that the Lord manipulated Satan, as in the cases of Job and Joseph. Sometimes, God gave him a good comeuppance as at Mount Carmel when Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal in a fire-calling contest. At other times, the Lord used subterfuge to fool His enemy. Christmas is one of those times.