It’s that time of year again when it seems like everyone is wishing for something. Personally, I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve watched a repeat of some cheesy, predictable movie scene. For instance, there’s the one in so many Christmas movies where one of the lead characters became Christmas-avoidant and Grinch-like because of something awful that happened on Christmas Eve. Maybe he hates Christmas because in the midst of proposing to the love of his life on Christmas Eve, a rabid skunk leaped out of the shrubbery and sprayed her, causing her to dump him because every time she saw him after that, all she could think about was that smell.
A Setup for Redemption ~
Anyway, he gets a crash course in the transformational power inherent in the way small-town folks do holidays. By the end of the movie, the Grinch dude is finally beginning to “get it.” That sets the stage for a climactic, eye-opening exchange between him and a local resident who, by virtue of a lifetime of eating Christmas cookies, making homemade ornaments, drinking hot chocolate, and staring at mountain scenery, has become God’s dispensary for small-town, homespun, life-altering stuff about Christmas.
The scene finds our guy outside on the porch in spite of the fact that it’s freezing out there, and he really isn’t dressed for it. He’s either sitting on a bench or leaning over a porch rail deep in thought as he pretends to sip on hot chocolate from an obviously empty cup. Soon he’s joined by the guru of holiday insight, and after a moment of looking off into the distance with him, she produces “the look.” You know the one that I mean, that look that says, “I’m about to tell you something so deeply profound that trying to grasp it all at once is liable to give you a rash.” Then, after all that build-up, all she finally delivers is some obvious cliché about the Christmas spirit, or love, or family, or traditions, or all the above. Then after a brief pause to let it soak in, she adds this capstone: “… after all, that’s what Christmas is all about.”
Is That All It Is?
I hear that line and think, “Wait a minute… Is that it? Is that exercise in nostalgic reminiscing supposed to explain what Christmas is ‘all about’?” After more than 2,000 years to think about it, is this what we’re left with? Do people still not know what Christmas is “all about?”
With new productions pouring out every year, you’d think that Christmas is some kind of ongoing work in progress that needs annual updates to try to stay current. Fiction writers jump in to use it as a centerpiece around which to ply their trade. Thus we have Christmas-themed mysteries, love stories, comedies, musicals, pageants, and dramas of every description to provide a relational or situational context that defines “what Christmas is all about.” It’s interesting that the One who created it hasn’t offered a single update or revision since the original even when the question first came up. We treat Christmas as though it needs a re-do, as though it somehow got broken, and we need to fix it so that it works in this modern era.
A Classic Scenario ~
When the process leading to the birth that we eventually called “Christmas” was just getting started, Joseph was totally at a loss to understand what it was “all about.” His love story had become a train wreck. His dreams for the future and his grasp of what it was going to be like were crushed, and no doubt, so was he. It was a classic setup for a movie scene. On one hand, we have a character blindsided by events beyond his control and in desperate need of a redeeming, eye-opening, life-changing, love-resurrecting revelation. On the other hand, there’s someone who can explain what it’s all about . . . the real meaning is of this birth that heaven and the entire world would eventually celebrate. But unlike us, when God brought them together, He didn’t require a two-hour theatrical production to get the point across. He managed to explain what Christmas was all about without the aid of props like hot chocolate, snow, evergreens, or colored lights. He just used words, and here’s what they were:
But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21 (NKJV)
I think it’s commendable that we devote so much time and energy in an effort to depict Christmas as a time when love and giving are paramount, and when broken hearts find ways to be mended and broken relationships get miraculously restored. We want to make Christmas a source of hope and encouragement, but all of these broken lives and shattered dreams at the core of our stories have one thing in common. There’s a sin issue at work in some fallen human being that breaks the heart and destroys the dream of some other human being. That’s the reason Jesus came. The Christmas birth began the events that would offer redemption to both the victims and the perpetrators.
Tell the Whole Story ~
It’s okay that we weave love stories, mysteries, and all kinds of human drama around Christmas, because it embraces the greatest love story the world will ever know, the most profound mystery we’ll ever encounter, and more human drama than we can ever depict, but if we leave out God’s explanation for it all, we’ve offered nothing of real value. Gabriel’s message encapsulated what “Christmas is all about” for Joseph and all who would come after him in these words: “… for He will save His people from their sins.”
We had a simple saying where I grew up: “If it ain’t broke… don’t fix it.” Maybe we ought to apply that to our attempt to explain what Christmas is all about.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “We treat #Christmas as though it needs a re-do, as though it somehow got broken, and we need to fix it so that it works in this modern era.” GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “There’s a sin issue at work in fallen human beings that results in broken hearts and destroyed dreams of other human beings. That’s the reason Jesus came. The Christmas birth began the events that would offer redemption . . . ” GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “In these words, Gabriel’s message encapsulated what “Christmas is all about” for Joseph and all who would come after him: “… for He will save His people from their sins” Matthew 1:21b (NKJV). GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “’If it ain’t broke… don’t fix it.'” Maybe we ought to apply that to our attempt to explain what Christmas is all about.” GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
The story has been told, and retold, sometimes with elegance and grace, and sometimes missing the mark. Even when those who seem to not get the message try, I pray that God is cheering them on, that they will one day see that the miracle for what it is.
Thank you, Ron, for this reflection today!
If I could clone folks, you’d be on my list of candidates, Martha. Your comments are so much more than welcome. They are like spiritual vitamins that energize and nourish our hearts. May God continue to bless you with insights into His truth and with the courage to declare them and to boldly live them out.
A classic deposition on the results of what has become of the Birth of our Savior !
Thank you, John. Your comment reminds us of your faithful support and fearless stand for God’s truth and that always adds another bright spot in our lives. May God bless you and your family with an unmistakable awareness of His presence as this Christmas season unfolds.