I am accused of being a Christmas curmudgeon, a grumpy older man who is down on Christmas cheer . . . I get it . . . some might even be thinking to themselves, “When is he going to talk about the joy of Christmas?”
Well, I get we need joy.
I had a great childhood and Christmas for me was marvelous, incredible . . . my childhood stepfather (as some of you know) was the heir of a Toy Company, the Gotham Steel Toy Company in fact . . . and I received amazing Christmas presents! I was a very popular neighborhood kid at Christmas time.
So, I get it. Christmas is supposed to be this wonderful, joyous, marvelous time of year.
But . . .
I am no longer that privileged child. I no longer have the luxury to think as a child. This season for many is a reminder of what is lacking, that someone is missing; a time of shame, loneliness, heart-brokenness . . . and everywhere one turns they are told that they should feel joy . . . even at church.
Yes, the original story has joy it in . . . but this is no commercial, consumer joy, or joy induced by decorations and nice music and great deals at Target. Yes, Elizabeth is told she will have “great joy” at the birth of John . . . but this “joy” is because her childless-shame would be finally taken away. Yes, as in our text this morning, the wise-men from the East have joy in seeing the Star, but we forget this is in the midst of a story about an jealous King who declares treason on this babe born outback in a stable, a story that ends with the slaughter of innocent children two and under, a story of exile and running away to seek safety in a foreign land.
The real Christmas story is far closer to the reality of so many populations of people on this plant, the bottom-billion, than the commercial one we are surrounded by and the one presented by us in church. Frankly, the poor homeless on the street, under the bridge, off in a corner seeking shelter from the elements have more in common with the original Christmas story than most of our resource-rich Christmas experience. And strangely, us, churches often harness the commercial version and Christmas consumerism to get people into our buildings at this season, when it is the original story they need, need for life now and for their soul, for there is eternity at stake in this original Christmas story.
Part 2 tomorrow . . .
Chip M. Anderson, advocate for biblical social action; pastor of an urban church plant in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, CT; husband, father, author, former Greek & NT professor; and, 19 years involved with social action.