2 Perspectives on Christmas
The result of living in 2 worlds as I do, often has me confused. When I’m in Europe I feel very much like a European, (whatever that is). When I return to the US, I sometimes wonder if I belong here. Things change a lot. Those changes take place in a relatively short period of time. Our American culture is in constant, frenetic change. That’s why I get confused about where I belong.
Dianne and I were in Europe 6 weeks this fall. We returned home Nov 20th, just in time for Thanksgiving. We assumed when we came back home, we would have Thanksgiving as usual, then do our Christmas shopping. To our surprise, Christmas shopping had been in season through most of the fall already. The result being things were picked over, store shelves starting to look bare. Imagine our dismay at this early attack on Christmas. (The turkey was hardly cold.) I’m old enough to have experienced and remember Christmas only after Thanksgiving.
Adding insult to injury, for me, is the ubiquitous Christmas kitsch in the yards of my neighbors. Now I ask you, what do swans, blow up Santas, palm trees, even pigs have to do with Christmas? I confess I have an attitude to deal with.
My perspective? Our consumerism is driving our behavior and setting the norm for our culture. We’re being swept along in the swift current of consumerism. I find this repugnant, disgusting. I want something better for our culture, my family and I. I don’t expect to live in a Christian bubble, nor to hold those outside my beliefs to feign an artificial faith. You can’t legislate righteousness. I know Jesus said he was hated and we should expect to be hated too.
So, what will I do? I will make a statement to my neighbors, at least, by erecting a biblical scene of Christmas with life size models of the holy family and an angel to proclaim the good news. I like the sound of that already. I can’t wait for the characters I ordered to arrive so I can set it up. By the way, it took a Christian family who owns a national chain of stores to make these figures of the real Christmas available. I certainly could not find anything of the right Christmas sort otherwise. Isn’t it odd that in secular Europe, you can still find plenty of real Christmas scenes?
My second perspective? One of my bible heroes is Joseph; the earthly father of Jesus. I read again the story of the birth of Jesus from Matthew, chapters 1 & 2. A powerful story of a man of honor, integrity, obedience, love, graciousness, trust, ….and I could go on and on. I have always identified with Joseph. He stands in the background of most manger scenes giving silent approval, in quiet submission to all taking place, willing to accept his lot, his role as human enabler, hovering over the family to protect, create security, encourage and point the way. His prominence to be seen, to be acknowledged, is swallowed up in submission to the greater good of everyone else. He is only important as he gives way to others; only as he allows them to be the focus. Their lives and their future makes him subservient to them. Thus his impact on the family is accomplished only as he submits to his unique calling.
It would take a strong man of Godly character to do what God laid on him. I noted 3 times in Matthew, Joseph receives an angel in his dreams to divinely direct the plan of our Sovereign God. Joseph wasn’t an extraordinary man. But he was a man tuned in to God’s voice and willing to suffer for the sake of God’s divine plan and on behalf of his family, and for all of mankind. He’s a super hero in my book.
So what will I do? I am resolved to emulate Joseph,… those qualities I have mentioned. I want all those qualities embedded in my life and characteristic of me, from head to foot. As a committee of one, this is my resolve. As Martin Luther said, “here I stand, I can do no other.”