I often hear from other Christians the lament over the commercialization of Christmas. It seems Christmas is more about the cash than it is Christ. We often even refer to this as the War on Christmas. My problem is we act as if this is something new. We have bought the idea that Christmas was somehow never about the money and yet I would suggest to you that it has always been about the money – from the first day.
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. Luke 2:1
Jesus was born into a place of conflict, occupation, and oppression. Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem so that the occupying Roman empire would know how much to tax their subjects. The birth of Christ in Bethlehem happened amidst a money-grab by those in power. And you can bet the vendors in the market place were taking advantage of the influx of outsiders to make their money.
The Good News is that Jesus came to us in this unlikely and unexpected way to show us the depth of God’s love for us to show us that God is so in love with us that God would go to any length for us, even to being humbly born in a stable (because there was no room in the inn).
And the really GOOD NEWS is that Jesus still shows up in the unexpected places in our world and in our lives. Jesus still shows up in our time whenever there is struggle, strife, injustice – wherever violence threatens and seeks to destroy the innocent and the good. Jesus even shows up in the midst of the over-commercialization of Christmas – IF you will let Him.
Jesus is born to bring hope in the midst of our despair; born to bring light in the midst of darkness. Jesus is born to give us a choice of giving over greed.
In Jesus, God entered into our reality and our lives. God knows what it is like to be human. God knows intimately what we go through. God knows what it is like to have hopes and dreams, fears and doubts, to belong and to be rejected, to succeed and fail.
I think sometimes the most unexpected place for us to think of God is in our own lives – amidst our frustrations. We somehow think that God is too distant, too busy, to break through all the gift-giving, advertisements, and business of Christmas and reach us.
But that is the point of Christmas. It reminds us that God chooses to be with us, wherever we are. God is with us, today, tomorrow. Always.
Jesus is God’s love made visible. His humble birth amidst the business of the Roman Empire puts that love on full display. It is a beautiful and unexpected gift in a humble and unexpected place.
Sometimes the greatest gifts you will ever receive are the ones you least expect. I pray that your Christmas will be filled with unexpected gifts – presents, relationships, or moments of grace. And may they come to you in unexpected places – the mailbox, online, and at home.
May they remind you of the original unexpected gift of Christmas—Jesus—and of God’s great love for you.