December 15, 2016
Four nights in a row!
Our preschool ministry had a presentation of the Christmas story for each of their four sessions. I attended each presentation and spoke briefly to parents and grandparents at the end of the program.
The story was presented in song and the traditional characters took part; Stars, Mary and Joseph, Shepherds, Angels and Wisemen. There was an adult narrator, but preschoolers sang the songs and portrayed the characters. I was struck again with the simplicity of the original story. It is such a simple story that it can be portrayed by preschoolers!
It’s a husband and wife traveling from one town to another on a donkey. It’s the birth of a baby in a stable. It’s the angels announcing the birth to shepherds and wisemen who traveled to greet the newborn baby. It is simple.
The husband and wife were humble, unheralded and unknown. An oppressive government made their journey necessary to pay taxes.They traveled by donkey.They stayed in a barn because the motels were full. The baby was born like all other babies, with his own sense of timing. Angels announced the baby’s birth, which was unusual but really fascinating. Shepherds came to visit. And, then there were these mysterious wisemen. We will see this scene over and over again in the next few weeks. Creche sets displayed in homes, offices, public squares, as inflatables in yards, and some even “live nativities.”
It is such a simple story it can be told without words.
This simple story set into motion all the craziness that has become Christmas.It has been transformed into the make it or break it season for retailers. It is that inspiration for many musical tributes and presentations. It has spawned office parties, corporate acknowledgments, and family gatherings. The travel industry is overtaxed. Restaurants are overbooked.
All because of this simple story.
Well, it’s really not that simple.
It is an incarnation.God became a human being which has been a huge roadblock for many people.
He is the long-awaited Messiah, promised by prophets thousands of years before he arrived. Yet almost every aspect of this simple story is found in those prophecies.
He was not at all what people expected. They wanted an earthly king, a political and military leader. They got a spiritual rabbi who spoke about the “kingdom of heaven” and not establishing a “kingdom on earth.”
There is the complication of a brutal death, burial and the claim of a resurrection.
There are the contemporary struggles of whether or not this is the Christmas season, or the holiday season; whether or not Christmas has become too commercialized; can we have specifically Christmas-oriented songs in a public school choral presentation? Or can we have secular songs in a Christian school presentation?
This simple story is also very complex.
I have adopted the position that I can’t change our culture, or school policies, or governmental guidelines. What I can do it practice my own personal beliefs. I can wish people Merry Christmas rather than Happy Holidays. I can resist the commercial temptation and focus on time in worship and with my family and friends (although my granddaughter may get spoiled with presents…again!) I can enjoy the music of the season remembering that even if it considered a “secular” song, it has its origins in the birth of Jesus.
I don’t have to make this a crusade I simply have to be what Jesus called us to be…”my witnesses.” During this season I will give witness to the simple complexity of Christmas, receiving once again God’s gift to us and sharing it the best I can with everyone I meet.