Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Simple Celebration

We live in a culture where bigger is better – we want the biggest house, the biggest truck, the biggest diamond… so it is hard for us to imagine the simplicity of Jesus’ birth. We have manipulated the nativity story into an elaborate, incredible event. If it were up to us, we’d have Jesus born in a five-star hotel, wrapped in Egyptian cotton, greeted by the Pope and the President. Mary would have the best doctors around. The whole world would be awaiting the news of Jesus’ birth. There’d probably be some elaborate party afterwards where people would wear today’s top fashion – I imagine something like a red-carpet affair. I mean the average wedding cost $30,000 – think about what we’d pay for the birth of our Lord and Savior – Millions? Billions? Who knows…

Our nativity scenes show baby Jesus snuggled up in a clean white cloth lying in a cute little manger. Mary and Joseph look gracious and clean. The shepherds are strong, tall men. Three wise men are dressed in elaborate robes. There is a big, bright shining star above the manger.

Yeah right! That’s a nice picture-perfect Kodak moment… that probably didn’t exist.

Think about it – Mary and Joseph had been travelling for days – from Nazareth to Bethlehem – to register for the census that Caesar Augustus had ordered. Probably on a donkey. I don’t know about you, but I would think Mary, being nine months pregnant, riding for days on a donkey, was probably pretty tired and haggard. Not to mention stressed – her baby had no place to sleep but a manger. Could you imagine having a newborn child, going from inn to inn looking for a place to stay, and finally having to settle for laying him in manger? That seems pretty desperate to me! Let’s face it, this manger probably wasn’t even clean – it’s a feeding trough for goodness sake!

Now let’s turn to the shepherds. The shepherds were probably young boys (as the youngest sons usually held the position). I imagine these three boys goofing off in the fields, looking for something to do to pass the time, when suddenly an angel comes to them and says, “The Son of God is born! You can find him wrapped in cloth in a manger!” A manger? Really? These shepherd boys were probably like, “Ok, let’s go check this out.” And when they did – they found what the angel said to be true! I imagine the young boys so excited about what had happened that they probably couldn’t wait to tell everyone they knew – “Hey, guess what we saw tonight?”

Now for the wise men – well, that’s another story, because if you read Luke then you’ll see that the wise men didn’t come that night. They saw the star and followed it, but they didn’t show up at Jesus’ house until at least a month later…

Finally, let’s talk about this star. No where in the Bible does it say that the star was a huge, bright star that everyone could see. Think about it, if it was, then why wouldn’t everyone who saw it want to know what was happening? Instead, wise men (men who studied the stars perhaps?) noticed a new star shining in the west.

To me, it makes a little bit of sense that the birth of our Lord and Savior would be a simple event – He was a simple man. He lived a humble life. He wants us to live a humble life. So why would God throw a huge, elaborate celebration to preach humility? Instead, He took average people (Mary and Joseph), gave His son a common name ("Jesus" was something like John or Bob or Joe today), put Him in a manger, and let shepherds be His first guests.

I think that God wanted Jesus as a human form so that we as humans could relate to Him. If he had given Jesus a fancy “Welcome to Earth” party then people probably wouldn’t feel that connection.

I also think that God intended the glory to go to what Jesus would do during his lifetime, his death, and his resurrection – maybe not so much his birth.

Not to downplay the birth of our Christ, but during this season where we want the fanciest decorations and the most expensive gifts, I think it would do us some good to consider the humility and simplicity of the first and most important Christmas…

I don’t know – just some things to think about!

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