Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock!
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim,
shine forth before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up you might, and come to save us!
Restore us, O God; let your face shine that we might be saved. (Psalm 80 1-3)
This ancient cry of God’s people was heard in the heavens. And the answer came as a child born in Bethlehem.
Some Christian groups are getting upset because some stores say “Happy Holidays” to their customers rather than the traditional “Merry Christmas.” Some churches are targeting Target, for example, for just this reason.
“We need to send a message to the retailers,” says one pro-Merry Christmas activist, “that Christmas is part of the country’s cultural heritage.”
I find it puzzling that the problem is with the greeting and not with the hi-jacking of Christmas by a consumer culture.
I remember when I was growing up I began to feel a disconnection between the Christmas story – the story of a poor saviour, born in a barn – with the way we celebrate that child’s birth. I was told at Sunday school that Jesus came from a poor family, and that the gifts Jesus received from the three wise men had deep symbolic meaning.
Some Mennonites suggest that Christmas has become so corrupted by crass consumerism that the only alternative is to “buy nothing.” While I have deep sympathy for this approach, I also have two young children. I know that Rebekah and I won’t get away with giving “nothing” to the kids.
But that’s the challenge: celebrating the saviour’s birth without getting sucked into the cultural traps of buying too much stuff we don’t need with maxed-out credit cards.
Maybe the best way we can celebrate Jesus’ birth is to reach out to other who need God’s love in their lives, and also offering him ourselves; our brokenness, our sorrow, our pain, and our sins, laying them at the manger, which he will then bring with him to the cross to be crucified. So, then we can rise again with Jesus into new and everlasting life.
As we begin our Advent journey to the manger at Christmas, I encourage you to think about how you and your family celebrate the birth of the saviour.
Grace to you and peace...Pastor Kevin