Happy Holidays...er, it appears the ACLU rarely visits my webpage so I'm going to go all out and say, Merry Christmas! I think I'm safe, for now. But why do we live in a culture that tries to demystify and domesticate the reality behind the Christmas season. We cloud out Christ with presents and consumerism. We sanitize Christmas with Santa clause. We mask the profundity of the incarnation with massive malls and mail-order catalogs and Amazon wish lists.
We even turn manger scenes into something pretty. Mary is always dressed in a light blue, Joseph often has a pretty lamb over his shoulder, and even the shepherds look pretty sharp. The actual scene must have been so messy. Both Mary and Joseph would have been covered in blood and amniotic fluid, and probably a bit of animal droppings as well. The shepherds wouldn't have bathed for days or weeks. The stall would have been over-run with animals. Jesus would have been crying (fooey on the idea of "no crying he made").
Most people are not surprised that God showed up the first Christmas. Of course he did. He is supposed to like us, save us, serve us, make us happy, well-fed, and good-looking. But the problem with this way of thinking is all backward. And the first Christmas hints at the foolishness of this concept. Jesus came to be with the dirty, smelly, and unkempt. Jesus came to those outside of the social hierarchy. The King of Kings didn't arrive with typical fanfare. Later the King of Kings would die just the way he came--almost entirely alone, rejected, unpopular, and surrounded by blood, dirt and stink. This is why we domesticate Jesus and demystify Christmas...because it is the reality that shames us, humbles us, points a finger are our deep need for salvation, hope, cleansing from the grime and filth of our sin. These truths must not be domesticated; rather, they must move us to profound worship, love, and surrender.
I appreciate Soren Kierkegaard's reflections: "Woe to the person who smoothly, flirtatiously, commandingly, convincingly, preaches some soft, sweet something which is supposed to be Christianity! Woe to the person who makes miracles reasonable. Woe to the person who betrays and breaks the mystery of faith, distorts it into public wisdom, because he takes way the possibility of offense...Oh the time wasted in this enormous work of making Christianity so reasonable, and in trying to make it so relevant."