The stores and shopping centers glitter with Christmas from October to January. Santa and reindeer, tinsel and garlands, Christmas trees and poinsettias sit on the shelves calling for someone to buy them. Their message is clear: “Buy me and I will make your Christmas the best it has ever been.
Everyone will be impressed with your house this season.” Decorations are so important – but the gifts are paramount. Everyone hopes to give the best gift because what you give is what you get back. It’s a never-ending game of one-upmanship. The gifts are only limited by the pocketbook and the credit limits on the plastic.
Christmas after Christmas rushes on with the buying and selling of “the bigger and better.” But it is never quite enough. There is an empty feeling that creeps in with the stack of wrapping paper and the empty boxes on the floor. There is a hint of disappointment in the children’s eyes.
“I wanted … but you gave me ...” Yet there is hope. Maybe next year. Dreams of next Christmas come to life as the lights go out on Christmas Day. Maybe next year. The whirling twirling flurries of Christmas come again and we play the game of one-upmanship one more time.
I can’t help but wonder what Christ thinks of his birthday celebration. He came to a stable. It was not decked out in shimmering grandeur. It wasn’t even hospital sanitary. It was a place where animals were kept. It was the lowliest of places. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes.
Some say that the swaddling clothes were used to swaddle new lambs to keep them “unblemished” so they could be used for sacrifices. Some say that the cave was a place where lambs were born and swaddled.
If that is the case, Christ was prefigured, in His birth, to be the sacrificial lamb to atone for the sins of the world. In any case, the stable – or cave – was not a castle and the swaddling clothes were not royal robes. He came into the world as a traveler, someone who was subject to Caesar just as every other Jew in Bethlehem that night.
He came when the world was sleeping, without fanfare of parades and fireworks. I wonder even if the keeper of the stable was aware of His arrival. Certainly thoughts did not revolve around the coming of the Messiah. Financial worries dominated most conversations. Caesar’s taxes were as much a burden in those days as the income taxes that plague us today.
I am sure Bethlehem was loud with buying and selling as disgruntled people bumped against each other in the crowded streets. I wonder if there was much different from today’s shopping sprees on Black Friday.
In the tradition of Clement Clarke Moore’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, I have written a poem about the birth of Christ (below).
Christ has promised that He would come again, and He will. If He comes at Christmastime, I wonder if it will be a repeat of what happened when He came the first time. Will we be awake or asleep?
I can imagine Him walking by the stores filled with the trappings of Christmas. What would He think of the award-winning houses adorned with the most lights? Would He feel every light honors Him or would He think of the game of one-upmanship that many of His so-called followers play?
Would He think the Christmas tree represents the “tree of life” and His gift of eternal life, or would He think of the new gadgets and tinsel that adorns the tree represent the pursuits of each heart?
Would He look at the gifts wrapped under the tree and wonder which gift was given from the heart? Would He think of the poor huddled in the dark night without even a blanket to cover their pain? His gifts were given with stretched-out hand and love in His eyes.
He didn’t go to the market to buy a trinket to put under a tree. He gave sight to the blind and legs to the lame. He gave new life to the sinner and brought back the dead. His gifts were eternal and would be remembered forever.
It is hard to break from the traditions of Christmas, but maybe this Christmas we can find a little time to give a few gifts that Christ would give. Perhaps we can be a little kinder and a little slower to anger. Maybe we can turn off the Christmas tree lights and look at the stars and send a prayer of gratitude for the twinkle of eternal lights.
Maybe we can talk to our children about what Christmas really means and find a way to help them experience the giving of gifts that don’t cost any money.
Christmas will come and go. It will be written in the history of every Christmas that has gone before. Make this a golden Christmas that stands out from the rest because we remembered the Savior on His special day. PD
‘Twas the Night Before Christ’s Birth
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the sky
The angels were preparing for the coming of Christ;
They hung heaven’s candles in the skyways with care,
In hopes that the Christ Child would notice them there;
The world was sleeping all snug in their beds;
Except for the homeless who had reason to dread;
The shepherds were nodding in the silent dark night
The wise men were searching for that wonderful sight.
The keeper had filled the manger with hay.
He had no idea what would happen that day.
The innkeeper sat at his table stacked high
With dreams of the coins he would stack there that night.
The town was a buzzing with taxes and such
“Caesar, the ogre, was asking too much.”
Camels and donkeys cluttered the streets.
Masters shoving and bumping to find someplace to sleep.
Out on the hillside not far from the town
Walked two weary travelers with shoulders sunk down.
One was a woman, no more than a child,
Her countenance was glowing,
pain-ridden, but mild.
Under her ribs, right next to her heart
She carried a child who soon would depart.
Her husband beside her with hand on her thigh.
He hastened and worried the child’s coming was nigh.
Door after door slammed to the young husband’s plea.
Harsh words were spoken, “We’re full, can’t you see?”
People’s cold faces turned inward with thought.
No one had a bed or even a cot.
Oh had they known who that child would become
What warmth and what kindness would then have been shown!
Had they known He would love them in spite of their wrongs.
He would carry their burdens and wear plated thorns.
He would die on the cross for every man’s sin
And allow heaven’s gate to swing open and in.
Had they known ... but they didn’t and the world rushes on.
With the drum beat of hurry and a drone for a song.
The stable keeper found room in his heart.
To offer his stable where new lambs were brought.
The swaddling bands were used for the lambs.
Tonight they would swaddle a God’s lamb in their bands.
The world was sleeping when the miracle began:
The soldier, the carpenter, the stone cutter and con man,
The innkeeper cradling the money he’d earned.
The woman thinking of the butter she’d churned.
They slept while the angels hung the sky’s brightest star.
They slept while the wise men started their journey from far.
They slept when the angel announced the Child’s birth
And the song of heaven rang all over the earth.
They never saw the miracle that was born in the night.
They never looked on the Savior his face full of light.
They only saw what they were willing to see.
I wonder how different we’d be, you and me?