Now a good while back in history, I stood on the platform of a huge church and spoke (share, preached, whatever) during the Christmas Eve Services. At the end of the FOUR services, I had won some friends, made no difference in many, and made a nice small package of enemies.
Why? Because I became an unintentional iconoclast. You see, I mistakenly thought all Christians wanted to follow Christ unconditionally – to recklessly abandon themselves to the Gospel, the Kingdom, to turn from this world for our home. I say that tongue-in-cheek, …okay, sort of. Being a bit more experienced (aka older), I know one needs the credibility to say hard things that comes through leveraged relationship built over time through many shared experiences of good, bad, hard, easy and celebrated as well. I had been there a great one month when I did this.
What was my sin? Simple… I ruined Christmas. You see, people have an idea of what Christmas is and it is defined by the culture, and presented as having always been like it is NOW. You do know that they shopped for bazillions of dollars in gifts in the 1st century, right? They wrapped everything in shiny expensive paper, unless you use the paper produced in China, in factories operated by prisoners sent there for re-education, never given a trial or a sentence, who worked 18 hours a day and are not even known to be alive by their families, who by the way were kicked out of their homes because their loved one is a convict (well, not a convict, because they were never even rail roaded and convicted…just sent away). You do know that Mary had Joseph hanging those little lights at the entrance to the barn, right? AND of course, they roasted turkeys for the feast the next day and baby Jesus has Santa bring him gifts, which of course we know were really from his pa….s. It’s okay, I didn’t spoil it!
BUT that night, I ruined Christmas, took the sheen off the packages and brought it to earth… born in a cave (they are still used around Bethlehem…. that is where the animals were kept in Bethlehem), it was at Passover – when the Jews migrated anyway… and doesn’t that make sense… Jesus was crucified at Passover and we may possibly remember the import of Passover – what it foreshadowed… when else would He be born? Why do celebrate in late December? Because when Constantine made Christianity a state religion, he placed it during the winter solstice to overtake the pagan religious celebration. I know – I suck. We forget that there was no affluence outside the top 1-2% anywhere in the world to afford any gifts, and those given were on the backs of sacrifice by the 98-99%… nice to know some things have not changed. There were no trees, no nice music that gives you cuddly cozy music, or roasted anything. Until the later 19th century, it was a small religious holiday only, and the pagan masses were debaucherous – it all began to change with the industrial revolution & a birthing middle class, marketing and image to keep up with the Jones, and the need (perceived) to have a great feast and celebration during the cold winter months when there was more time. It was also fed by the new migration occurring as people relocated due to the industrial revolution as families relocated to cities from the farmlets. Hallmark was born!
But that only annoyed most, though there was one lady scouring at me – I ruined Christmas; translate I ruined the market driven celebration to celebrate facade she had bought into. What truly pissed off this new found set of enemies was how I closed it…
I exposed that the entire reason Jesus was born… no, scandals begin… he was not born to be cute and something the kids could do in a play at kindergarten. He was born for one reason – to grow up and be sacrificed – the lamb without blemish as the just propitiation of sin. If they missed it as I unpacked this over 4-5 minutes, was when I ended by poignantly, poetically and unabashedly stood and dramatically pointed at the manger and proclaimed,
“Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”
Yes, Christmas is the introduction of Easter, the sacrifice is brought home from the store, brined and seasoned for one purpose – to be sacrificed (killed, murdered, given up for us, by God, to God). Not exactly “Here Comes Santa Claus” playing at Macy’s.
You know, I’d do it again and not change one word.