At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to Jesus, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you." He said to them, "Go and tell that fox for me, 'Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.'" - Luke 13:31-32
As good excuses go, hearing that someone wants you dead ranks right up there at the top.
When Jesus gets tipped off to Herod's plan for him, everyone expects him to take off running. But he doesn't. Instead he tells them to tell that "fox" Herod that he's got more important things to do.
"Listen, I've got demons and cures here . . . come back in three days".
Jesus is good at reminding us not to let the things that want to, literally and figuratively, dictate how we use our time. And that's a great reminder around Christmastime.
Every year, in every church I have served, at least one faithful church member comes to me to let me know they won't be at Christmas Eve worship.
"Going out of town this year?" I ask.
"No, just way too much to do," they respond.
They then proceed to tell me about how many family members are coming, about the big turkeythey are cooking the next day, about the presents waiting to be wrapped, and about how stressed out they are about all of it. They'd love to be at Christmas Eve worship, they tell me, but they don't feel like they can take the time.
"Come anyway," I say. Come, first, because your house guests will understand, and maybe even want to join you. And, if they don't understand, well then, they can just deal with getting their turkey an hour later the next day. You're here every Sunday morning, so I know this matters to you, and going to worship God on one of the holiest nights of the church year is not an act of selfishness.
If Jesus could make Herod wait, you can make your brother-in-law, and every other old fox you know, wait too. Stick a bow on the hard-to-wrap present. Take the elaborate Christmas Eve party down a few notches. Because you are way too busy welcoming Emmanuel, God-with-us.
God-with-us, help us to never be too busy for you (even if it means Christmas dinner is late).