I realize many are disgusted by the flashiness that has become Christmas in some parts of the country—Lighted Santas! Giant blown up Snowmen! Peanuts Nativity scenes. I once saw “Jesus is the reason for the season!” emblazoned on the roof of a private residence off a Dallas freeway. Is he? I think, “yes, indeed!” As someone who has lived in less than Christian-friendly places, these decorations are mesmerizing. I once drove around Berkeley in a quest for Christmas lights, driving in wider and wider circles until I crossed the bridge to San Francisco to see finally a concentration of lights: the outlines of the Embarcadero Center emerging from the fog. I drove down the main shopping drag and discovered that was it. When there is little mark of festivity, you miss it.
Jesus though is still the reason for the season. We need not see it and we need not be completely aware of it. He does not need us to crown him King.
He is a king that reigns too in areas oozing with holiday festivity. As Jesus said, the stones do cry out, the stones, the inanimate objects—the decorated openings and buildings cry out because they can’t help it. Streets and trees and lamps offering wishes of “Merry Christmas!” “Joy! “Peace!” Even “Happy Holidays!” I grew up in a very Jewish area, accustomed to wishing everyone a “Happy Holiday!” And I don’t have a problem with it—because, the main holiday to which everyone refers is still indeed Jesus’ birthday. Santa? A generic merry wonderland? Vestiges of Saturnalia? They still overwhelmingly point to Christmas, which I realize is not entirely the same thing as Jesus, but it is a starting place as Christmas is at its core about Jesus. Even non-Christians can tell you that! Christ does not need us to crown him king! Says Jesus: “I tell you…if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (NIV) Says the store down the street! “Ho, Ho, Ho!” Says google’s logo last year!
Not only are signs not silent, but nor are we! I am struck every year by how boldly commonplace it becomes to talk about Christmas, and thus Jesus. My dentist and hairdresser wished me a “Merry Christmas” this week! And I am in awe every time I hear music extolling about “…our dear Savior’s birth” in a store that would normally consider that blasphemous. In especially these not typically Christian places—sometimes most negatively anti-Christian places—hearing this music, seeing the festivity, fills me with wonder and joy. Our God reigns, though they just don’t know it. And what is wrong with that, since we Christians often don’t know it either.
We are not quiet: we wish people “Merry Christmas” and we take action. We give gifts to say thank you, “I appreciate you.” I love the intent behind it—the desire to honor each person’s uniqueness and specialness. We give gifts because Jesus was/is God’s most generous gift to us. We give gifts of money and time to one another in hopes of honoring the image of God in the other, in hopes of honoring Christ in the other—because that is what our hearts mostly deeply appreciate about the other, our neighbor—even if this is the furthest reason from our minds. More of Christ is what we must deeply desire for one another, even if this is the furthest thing from our minds. Although obligation might be a more obvious and seemingly dominant reason, obligation too cannot obliterate the drop of good motive, the tiny mustard-seed of a Christ-loving heart motive in our gift giving.
We of course turn things into what they are not—but this does not mean that God’s heart does not still reign, that his goodness and love do not ooze through. The stones will cry out, so why not our hearts more consciously pointed to Christ too? Why can’t Luke 19’s triumphant entry can be applied to this (and every) season?
“BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD;
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Christ does not need us to crown him King. He is King regardless. And how blessed we are to recognize that more and more.
Photo credit: Melody Chen, used with permission