Way too often, that’s been my response since becoming an “enlightened” Christian. Give the pagan trees, lighted Santa’s, and twinkling lights to the materialistic holiday worshipers. I’ll opt out, as much as is culturally possible, anyway.
Just remembered. Coerced by our interior decorator (my wife), I bought a string of 400 lights last week. Got them at Walmart— the big “W”—shrine of the modern day Christmas. Elbow to elbow, pushy people, everywhere! Tis the season when people get weird.
Luke’s version of the Nativity is the one most often read from the Bible. The more I read it the more I realize that first Christmas was kind of strange, too. According to Luke, because of a new tax law passed by the Roman government, families were crisscrossing the world returning to their hometown registering for taxation.
The first Christmas happened at a time when you would have thought God to be fed up with fickle humanity. Read the record of history. People would give their allegiance to God one day, and drop Him the next. Yet, for some bizarre reason, God came to our confusion.
As the story goes, He sends an angel named Gabriel to a teenager named Mary to tell her that she’s been chosen to be part of God’s new plan. Bottom line, God’s coming to earth and He wants to use her to get here.
I feel the hectic pace of life in Luke’s Christmas rendering. Reminds me of Walmart shoppers on “Black Friday.” This is the mob that queues up in front of the gargantuan superstore waiting for them to open their doors at 4 AM! They’ll mix it up with all kinds of folks to grab a deal on a flat screen TV!
Personally, I like John’s version of the first Christmas. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). To the point—no nonsense—just the facts. Two of John’s words grab me – flesh and dwelt. I know what they mean, but just for fun, I looked them up anyway. Here’s what I found: Flesh—the meat of an animal; Dwelt—to occupy or reside.
Back to Walmart.
For my part, I’ve come to like the mega-market because I can get everything I need under one roof. It was Sam’s idea. But I hate the buggy traffic. (“Buggies” AKA, shopping carts. It’s a southern thing.) Slow, creeping shoppers, hauling a loaf of bread in their buggy as they poke along looking for the best deal on butter. Visiting Grannies park in the middle of an aisle, chatting, catching up from their last visit…last Christmas. Worse still, when I’m in a hurry I’ll run into someone who takes thirty minutes to ask me to pray for their aunt’s, cousin’s, sister’s, brother. If you’re in a rush, don’t go to Walmart at Christmas. I guarantee you, there’s someone there you know, and they’ll find you. Or bump into you—literally!
I can’t imagine anyone outlandish enough to want to brave this confused crowd called the human race. But then, that’s what makes God…God. He is. He’s crazy about us. At Christmas He’ll listen to us sing “Joy to the world the Lord has come,” then watch us waddle out of the church house and go about our business without giving Him another thought. Treat Him as we do, He still longs to be with us.
John says He came and “dwelt among us,” hinting that He came to stay. No matter how we treated Him, He wasn’t leaving. In spite of our inconsistencies, more attracted to yuletide lights than the Light of the world, God came to earth to be near us. Immanuel, “God with us.” The name fits.
And if that’s not enough, John says God didn’t just move near us, He became like us. He left heaven to come here. That’s weird. But God living in an earth suit? Come on.
Sure! It’s one of the ways He proves how much He wants to be with us. He makes Himself real to us. A God, if you will, with “meat.” No one can ever say to God, “Pa-leeeeze. Get real!” Because…He did. He can point to a Bethlehem manger. And Walmart.
That stampede who bashes their buggies against mine and shoves me out of their way for a 50% discount—looks a lot like that first Christmas. People galore! Hurrying to wait in line. Buying gifts and paying sales tax. Traveling miles. Praying there’s a vacancy at the local hotel so they can eat at Uncle Fred and Aunt Sarah’s on Christmas day.
The Bible says that God waited for just the right time to come. And of all times, He chose to come to one of the most chaotic places, at the most frenzied time, while everything was in a tizzy.
Silent Night? Hardly. The way I read the story, it was more shaky than silent. And yet, in the middle of this hurly-burly chaos, God came. Not with judgment, but justice. Not condemning, but consoling. Not pointing-the-finger, but pining with love. The Message says it best, that God “Became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”
Probably, right beside Walmart.
Christmas. Weird ain’t it?
God came to be with us. Every one of us. The best of us. The worst of us. Old and young. Fat and skinny. Black, white, and brown. Muslim. Methodist. Buddhist. Baptist. He came to all of us.
We call it “Christmas.”
It’s when God waited in line to purchase one precious item.
It’s you He was after all along. Weird, huh?
Did you know you’re that special? He waited because you’re just that valuable to Him. Like a true bargain hunter, God pushes through your crowded, crazy life, pulls you to his heart, and this time, He cradles you. He thinks you’re worth the wait.
He chooses you, then proceeds to check-out and pay for His long awaited trophy. And pay He does—with His own blood.
This is the story that lights my life and makes my tinsel tingle. The story’s a bit bizarre, but only to those who don’t understand how dear they are to our Father. He’s the insistent patron who stands in line and waits patiently until you open the door of your heart to His love.
And can you imagine, there are silly people out there who are attempting to secularize this sacred season to become an all-inclusive, politically correct holiday. I want wish all of you, but most especially them, a great-big “MERRY CHRISMAS!”