“Santa baby” the refrain begins, “I want a yacht, that’s not a lot” it says in the middle and ends with a proposition to the Man in the Red Suit. The seductive tones of Earth Kitt’s “Santa Baby” go on to describe the American Holiday of Christmas better than any thing else. “One more thing” she sings “a ring”. I want it all for Christmas and when you get done maybe you and I can get together. A message that is, startlingly, not so different from Satan’s bargaining with Jesus at the tip of the Temple, I’ll give you all these things, all the kingdoms of the world if you give me yourself later.
Christmas as a holiday in America has become the great liberator of our free market economy. That’s fine as far as it goes, but its not free—Christmas is expensive. The merchants, we are told, count on Christmas sales to put them in the black for the year. So we trudge off to the mall and now the Internet to shop till we drop. There are people, I am told, that go far into debt every year just so that their family can have a good Christmas. (Good here is a relative term.)And that means a tree, possibly a real one, with presents piled high. Lights, decorations, and all the trimmings and probably a few parties scattered throughout the extended season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve. The obligatory celebration that another year has come and gone is probably the biggest night of saturnalia in the world or at least everyone acts like it was the next day. See? Expensive.
The expense isn’t really the problem though. The major issue here is that we have reduced this celebration of the birth of Jesus down to something we can take on our own terms. This is the way we do it round here, you know, in the world. Let me give an example:
The Bible tells us that Jesus was baptized by John and “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17(NASB)”
Preaching was what he did from that time on and we can see from reading the gospels and Acts that even right up until the ascension He was preaching or teaching in some fashion. No one who got near Jesus had any doubt about what His claims were or who those who followed him thought he was. All the Jews had been expecting this Messiah and yet when he came, they rejected him. Judas is probably the most famous of these because his betrayal is so well documented but they were all guilty. They rejected Jesus each time they encountered Him but the word belief was never used until they had him on the cross. “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him.” Matthew 27:42 (NASB) We will believe in you when we feel like it. We will believe in you if you entertain us and give us presents and show us tricks. We will believe in you Jesus—on our own terms.
When we try to meet Jesus on our own terms, chances are we will find something to worship. It won’t be Jesus or His Father who sent him, but we will find something. Probably from Best Buy or Circuit City—a plasma TV or a new DVD player or some computer-majig. “Hey Wal-Mart, tone down that Merry Christmas business, that’s waaaaay to religious for us.” But put big TV’s on sale there’s going to be a fight. A man will commit to mortal combat for a wide screen but decide to stay out of church because of “those hypocrites”. And still the world rails on at Christmas as if its not enough that it’s been twisted into a credit fest, a love feast of things. Something’s just not right when the world can’t even stand the flat watered down image of Christmas and Christ represented by Santa Clause and his yearly giving spree. Still they do with Christ what they have always done, approaching him on their own terms.
You have your traditions. That’s fine with me because I have mine too. Make sure, however, that they honor the One whom they are supposed to honor. The Christ, the Son of the Living God.