“Every creative attempt to make the [Christmas] season meaningful, to steal it back inside the church, away from the shopping malls and cheesy radio stations, has been tried, and most of those creative attempts have proved wanting. Perhaps the problem is that we don’t know what the meaning of this holiday, of Jesus’ pushing into the world, is. If we did, we wouldn’t have to worry about consumerism; if we knew what the Incarnation meant, we’d be so preoccupied with awe we wouldn’t notice all the shopping” – Lauren Winner
A Christmas post about Jesus. Not exactly novel. It’s all about Jesus isn’t it? I mean, He’s the reason for the season. It’s CHRISTmas.
Maybe you’re expecting a rant on consumerism right about now. For me to say that our culture gets too caught up in Santa Clause and spends way too much money on presents. That we live in a consumerist culture.
Which we do.
That our consumerist culture gets so obsessed with these other things that we somehow refuse to see what is right in front of our faces.
Which we do.
But I have something else on my mind this Christmas season. I know many of the people who get caught up in the commercialism do not actually know Jesus and I’m not going to convince everyone that celebrating something they don’t understand or believe in is the moral thing to do. I know that you and I might be doing a pretty good job of avoiding all the lies that culture throws at us this time of year.
But I still feel that sometimes we just don’t get it.
Let me summarize things I’ve taught on, heard preached, books I’ve read, songs I’ve heard — whatever — about Christmas the past few years:
- It all starts with the angel coming to Mary and revealing God’s plan. She is probably 15 years old, it must have been so hard and scary to bear the responsibility of that pregnancy when she was so young and so innocent. She had to bear those weird looks from people when she hadn’t done anything wrong. She had to consider the fact that her whole life would be different.
- Then there’s Joseph. Her fiance. What is he supposed to do? He must have been so upset, so confused. He could have had Mary killed — should have had Mary killed — under Jewish law. But he didn’t. He didn’t even make a big deal out of it. He was going to divorce her quietly, showing what a great man he was. But he didn’t even divorce her because God revealed the plan to Joseph as well.
- So Mary and Joseph have to go to Bethlehem, right? Perfect timing since Mary is super pregnant by now. They didn’t have cars, or paved roads. Mary and Joseph may not have even had a donkey. It was a hard one hundred miles for the very pregnant Mary. So she gives birth once they get to Bethlehem … but it’s in a barn! Can you believe it? A barn. Where there’s smelly animals and hay and no sanitation. And it looks like Joseph was the only one with her for the big event. Don’t envy that girl.
- So the first people God tells? Shepherds. Nobodys. People who couldn’t even testify in court they had such a bad reputation. And the “wise men”? Most likely pagan astrologers from way out in the Middle East. Another odd choice. By the way, there weren’t necessarily three of them. The Bible never says there were three, it says that they brought three gifts. Also by the way, they probably didn’t show up at the same time as the shepherds. It was probably much later — possibly a few years later.
So that’s the Christmas story. All of the above is true and good to learn and think about, but did you notice a strange omission? Like that I didn’t mention Jesus’ name one single time? I sometimes feel like He is just the force out there that is bringing this strange group of people through this strange series of circumstances for some strange event which just happens to be His birth.
It reminds me of an Olympian’s “back-story”. They are always showing an athlete and focusing on what he had to overcome to get to the Olympics. Sometimes they play the back-story up so much that I forget this person is actually an athlete, about to do something great.
We get consumed in the context sometimes; what was going on, what they were thinking and feeling. Look at all that Mary overcame to get here … to go to Bethlehem … to give birth … to our Savior. We’re always hearing the Christmas story from someone else’s “perspective” — Mary’s, Joseph’s, the wise men’s, the “crippled lamb’s”. Maybe we’ve gotten tired of hearing the same old Christmas story, the one from Jesus’ perspective, but I realize I’ve never actually heard anyone attempt to tell the story from Jesus’ perspective.
For instance, I know the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem was hard, but I wonder what the journey from heaven to earth was like for Jesus. What was it like to actually become a man? To know that You are God but that you will go through life as a human — the awkwardness, the parties, the pain, puberty, friends, rejection, splinters and thunderstorms.
It must have been hard for the shepherds to know that a lot of people wouldn’t believe their incredible story, but I wonder how Jesus felt knowing that not many would believe His. (Isaiah 53:1)
Mary must have been scared knowing that Joseph had every right to have her killed. I wonder how Jesus felt knowing that He was coming to earth with the purpose of being killed.
It kind of makes me look at things differently. It makes me tired of dissecting the precious verses and chapters that give us a glimpse into the first Christmas. It makes me think that Luke 2 should be read at times other than just December.
Jesus is more than just a baby that came into the world under really, really, strange circumstances. He’s God. A God that cared so much about our world that He became a part of it. A God who became human to redeem humans. “When the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)
So, I’m not hating on Mary and Joseph, the wise men and the shepherds, or even the “crippled lamb”. They did some amazing things and God used them incredibly. But when I look at the Christmas story, I see God’s heart more than anything. His heart to redeem and adopt the world He created, even though He didn’t have to. His heart to choose to come into the world the way He did, humbly and unexpectedly. His heart to use His creation — the people, the star, the manger — in the salvation story of all creation.
I hope that truth sweeps you and me off our feet this Christmas season.