Updated: Mar 25, 2020
In the two millennia since Christ’s birth, the world, particularly the west, has imputed some beautiful traditions to Christmas - liturgical, artistic, all of it. Midnight Mass, poinsettias, ornate crèche scenes, carols and Santa Claus have all become emblematic of the time of year we celebrate the birth of the Savior.
The truth of the matter is, though, that Christ was born into an ugly world. Before the Savior of mankind could so much as string a sentence together, He was laid in a feeding trough, warmed by the breath of asses and sheep and was sent to flight into Egypt because of the paranoia of a sociopathic ruler. No, these were not nice times and yet the western imagination has sanitized it to such a point where the celebrated event, the most important in human history, has nearly lost its meaning. Gold watches, gift cards and the latest video games have supplanted gold, frankincense and myrrh. The magnificent imagery of Botticelli, van der Weyden, El Greco and Caravaggio have been replaced by the imagery of Wal-Mart, Tiffany’s and Macy’s.
In his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, the Anglican theologian N.T. Wright writes, “This is how Israel’s redeemer was to appear; this is how God would set about liberating his people, and bringing justice to the whole world…If he is to be Emmanuel, God-with-us, he must be with us where the pain is.” This is the reason for the season: that the Son of the living God came into the world in the most miserable, abject conditions imaginable. He was a poor, destitute refugee at less than a year. All this so that the Son of Man could share, to the fullest extent possible, in our wounded human nature.
It’s wonderful to take joy in giving and sharing material things during this season. But the REAL joy of the season is that the God-Man, Jesus Christ, came into the world to share in our humanity in every way except sin and thus shares everyday in our personal joys and sufferings. Let’s not lose that beautiful reality amid the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season.