There’s something about over-the-top gaudiness that humors me. Whether it’s an inappropriately huge Christmas tree decked out so many ornaments it leans to one side or a neighbor’s lawn covered in inflatables, I just have to laugh. Christmas seems to bring out the glitter, the glam, the glitz, and the gluttony we’ve been hiding all year long.
I’m not sure Jesus’ birth was ever intended to cause so much “celebration.” It was a quiet affair—father, mother, and child, a heavenly host, and some of the lowliest shepherds. A year later, the wise men appeared bearing three gifts. All in all, it was not a very grand affair for the Lord of Heaven and Earth—at least to the naked eye. The birth of William and Kate’s little prince garnished more notice.
It’s just a story we tell, isn’t it? Right along with The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and The Polar Express. We live in a world where Jesus birth is as much a fable as the story of St. Nick—more legend than actual Bible truth. So, then, why does it surprise us when we see the world expressing itself as only the world can?
For example, earlier this week on Facebook I posted a picture of a nativity (see about) composed of Star Wars and Star Trek characters, other alien entities, and a gallantly posed Batman figurine flexing atop the crèche. It drew some chuckles, likes, and cries of sacrilege.
But, to me, it perfectly illustrated Jesus’ birth, whether or not the creator of this particular nativity intended it to be. John 1: 10 came to mind, “He [Jesus] came into the very world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him.” We didn’t recognize Him. The world had no idea who He was, and it’s still missing Him!
To many, Jesus’ birth seems that alien, that inexplicable, and that ridiculous. The story of Immanuel (God -With-Us) is so insane that it might as well be added in the madness of the holiday season. A nativity scene nestled between Elf on a Shelf and a pink glitter reindeer—it just seems to make sense.
And yet it makes no sense at all.
On the holiest of nights, Heaven kissed Earth producing a small, helpless baby who would save us all. Heroes usually have an epic birth story and the gospels tell the story of Jesus. An otherworldly humanoid sent by His Father.
It’s almost like Superman’s backstory. His home planet was being destroyed, so Superman’s mother and father packed their baby boy into a capsule, which crash landed in middle of nowhere America. Taken in by a farmer and his wife, Superman’s humble origins didn’t hold him back from becoming a shy, big city reporter named Clark Kent who moonlighted as Superman. With one exception, Superman came to earth to save his life, but Jesus came to give His life away.
That’s a nice story, isn’t it? But how could it possibly be true? It seems unbelievable. So replacing Jesus with a screaming alien baby and the wise men with three Darth Vader’s, well, that’s just as ludicrous because it’s not true.
Unless it is.
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are full of true stories of people who missed who Jesus is and what He came to do. Even Jesus’ most faithful followers didn’t understand His purpose, until they came face to face with their Risen Savior on a Sunday long ago. If we who have been with Jesus face to face miss Him in our daily lives between soccer practice and Bible study and grocery shopping, then how can we ever expect a world that didn’t recognize Him to understand Him? It’s nearly impossible to recognize someone you have never met.
Play “Jingle Bells,” drink egg nog, and wrap your gifts in lovely paper. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating peace on earth and goodwill to mankind (Luke2:14). Just remember, the world won’t always recognize Him; they won’t know Him. But you can and you do. Help others to look beyond snow globes, ugly sweater contests, and Secret Santa’s.
Celebrate His Birth. And laugh at the joy in the world, for it is about Him, even if the world forgets about the little alien stranger who came to dwell among us.