My thinking on Christmas is evolving over time, and this year I’ve been pondering on the parallel celebrations.
On the one hand you have the secular holiday which is the focus of the year. It’s central figure is Santa Clause, the focus on family and presents.
On the other, the christian celebration, which focuses on the gift of Jesus to the world. Not quite as central* to the christian calendar.
I was reading a sermon from a certain church (which has had more than enough publicity and won’t be mentioned further) and there was a comment that lowly shepherds were invited, and foreign kings – the local religious leaders weren’t. The point being made that this was an indication of Jesus’ future as the “rebel”.
Unfortunately, while this fairy tale might fit the progressive christianity story, it’s not biblical.
Jesus may have disagreed with the religious experts, but he most certainly did not come to change the law his father handed to Moses.
17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
Rather he came to fulfill it. The reason he clashed with the religious leaders of the day was not to be some sort of religious rebel, but to explain what the law actually meant.
23“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.
A reading throughout the old testament law (which does contain some strange things to our modern eyes) shows God (yes, in the Old Testament) showing very much that he cares deeply about justice and mercy and caring for the poor. For example, land owners were not to harvest their entire crop. Rather, they were to leave the edges for the poor to gather – something that is very important in the story of Ruth.
(The effect being quite a good balance of course. There was charity, but you had to go out and get it.)
But I digress. Back to “who was invited to the manger”.
1After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem 2and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east[b] and have come to worship him.” 3When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ[c] was to be born. 5“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
There you have it. The Magi, who were not even Jews, were keeping a keen eye out for signs of the coming messiah. As soon as they saw the sign, they immediacy came – without invitation.
The local religious leaders on the other hand were completely blind. They even explained it all to Herod without clicking to what was going on. The news of the coming of the messiah was handed on a plate to them and they went “hm, nice plate” and moved on.
The question for you this Christmas is, are you going to do the same, or will you miss opening a gift that puts anything and everything under your tree to shame.
*It’s no. 53 in my estimation after Good Friday, Easter Sunday and all other Sundays. My father never, ever bailed hay on the Lord’s Day even if rain was threatening but he never hesitated to so on non-Sunday Christmases. He told us once of a certain prominent minister who would always make sure to be seen to be working in his garden on Christmas to remind his congregation of the status of the holiday.
The point is, Christimas is a worthy celebration, but the resurrection is the real story of Christ’s life, and we celebrate that every Sunday.