Six Ways to Miss Christmas – Over-Familiarity

from John MacArthur’s booklet, Six Ways to Miss Christmas.


Perhaps the saddest of all, the people of Nazareth missed Christmas. Luke 2:39-40 says, “When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth . And the Child continued to grow and became strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” When Jesus returned to Nazareth , He was unlike any other child in Nazareth . He accompanied His parents to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover when He was twelve years old. He proceeded to confound the doctors of theology in the Temple (Luke 2:41-47). He spent thirty years of His life in Nazareth , yet the residents failed to recognize Him.

Luke 4 unveils the tragedy that took place when Jesus revealed His identity to the Nazarenes: “He came to Nazareth , where he had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book, and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’ And He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, ‘Is this not Joseph’s son?’ . . . . And He said, ‘Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his home town'” (vv. 16-22, 24). The people of Nazareth missed Christmas because of over-familiarity. They knew Jesus as Joseph’s son, and they didn’t view that as anything special. After Jesus finished speaking in the synagogue, the people “rose up and cast Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way” (vv. 29-30).

Over-familiarity is a deadly thing. I come across so many people who say they were raised in a Christian environment but are not Christians. Fear grips my heart when I hear that. Over-familiarity strangles conviction. When you’ve heard something so many times without doing anything about it, such familiarity can breed contempt. Mark 6:6 gives us Christ’s own analysis of the people of Nazareth : “He wondered at their unbelief.” Matthew 13:58 adds, “He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.” Over-familiarity with Christmas truth can breed a stony heart. You had better respond while your heart is soft, or your heart will become hard and you won’t have the opportunity to respond (Proverbs 29:1).


There are many ways to miss Christmas: ignorant preoccupation, ritual, idolatry, and over-familiarity. But behind all those reasons is unbelief. Many people simply refuse to believe in Jesus Christ. The apostle John said, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:10-12). If you’ve been missing the reality of Christmas in your life, know that if you receive the Lord Jesus Christ and believe in His name, Christmas will become real to you. It can happen today; and it’s between you and God (2 Corinthians 6:1-2; Romans 10:8-11).