How do you feel about the way our society celebrates Christmas?
A record 226 million people visited stores and websites during the last four days, up from 212 million last year. Black Friday accounted for $11.4 billion in sales, the largest amount ever spent on that day. Earlier hours seemed to make the difference–24 percent of Black Friday shoppers were in stores at midnight. And online shopping last Friday was up 26 percent from a year ago. With Cyber Monday today, more people than ever before are expected to shop online.
All this buying is good for our recession-burdened economy, right? But with the frenzy came the violence. On Thanksgiving night, a woman in Los Angeles used pepper spray on 20 people to get the video game she sought; she later turned herself in to police. Another California shopper was shot and wounded in a suspected robbery while walking to his car. A scuffle in a New York store injured two women; a Black Friday fight in Florida put a man behind bars.
Do you ever wonder what Jesus thinks of the way we celebrate his birthday?
There are two ways to see the issue. On one hand, Christmas is a manufactured holiday. Jesus was most likely born in the spring, as the shepherds were “living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night” (Luke 2:8). The earliest known reference to December 25 as the date of Jesus’ birth is found in a manuscript dated to A.D. 354. Some historians suggest that its proximity to the winter solstice prompted Christians to use the date to celebrate the birth of the sun/Son.
If December 25 isn’t really the date when Jesus was born, perhaps all the secular trappings and shopping frenzy surrounding the holiday aren’t so bad? On the other hand, everyone I know thinks of Christmas as the time when we celebrate Jesus’ birth. Our Lord had “no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58)–what would he say about the extravagance of our holiday? Have you ever been to a birthday party where everyone gets presents except the guest of honor?
What would Jesus want for his birthday? He told us that when we feed the hungry, house the stranger, clothe the poor, and visit the sick and imprisoned, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:34-40). What if Christians viewed Christmas as an opportunity to show our culture who Jesus really was and is? What if we seized this occasion to do what he did–touching the “lepers” of our day, washing feet, loving the unloved?
How do you think Jesus would want you to celebrate his birth?