The best gift I ever gave for Christmas was a "Shrek" Donkey Chia Pet. The recipient may or may not have taken the gift back to Chicago with her. The best gift I ever received was a singing, dancing, talking hamster (no link available), which I still have in my bedroom closet to provide what the alarm clock and the shower can't completely accomplish in the form of a morning wake-up. I love Christmas, mostly because I don't take the presents seriously and it turns into utter chaos. Ok, I take some of the presents seriously. I still make a list.
Let's be honest, you're already thinking about Christmas, and you probably feel real guilty and annoyed about that. You don't want to think about it, but the stupid department stores are forcing you into it. The weather is getting cold. The college football season is winding down (or gearing up, if you're a fan). You will NOT hang Christmas lights until after Thanksgiving, but some of your neighbors are talking about it. The biggest shopping day of the year is approaching, and you want to be ready. The economy is in the toilet, so this year especially, you're looking at your bank statement and wondering how its all going to work. The Christmas bonus is looking questionable. You might have to kidnap your boss Cousin Eddie style.
But you're still thinking about it. Perhaps the holiday season is difficult for you because of pain or loss that once accompanied it. Perhaps you're thinking about it, but in reality dreading it and wishing you were as excited as when you were a kid. Perhaps you wish that Santa Claus could bring you that gift that would make everything seem right again. No worries, nothing but the anticipation of an authentic G.I. Joe figure in your stocking.
In whatever case, allow me to remind you of what I was so thankfully reminded of this year. The season of Advent is a conspiracy. It celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, born through the womb of a virgin, and into a small rural, hick town in a land far away from America. It represents the beginning of the ministry and the event that would become, and now remains, the center of history. God in the flesh came and lived a perfect life in the Person of Jesus Christ, and came to us, as sinners, and tax collectors, and prostitutes, to show us the image and character of the invisible God, and came to die on a cross, so that we could be reconciled with our Father in heaven and live forever with him and with all his children in perfect community.
And he came and did this, and accomplished this, as a baby. He was covertly hidden and transported away from his home as an infant to escape those who desired to kill him. And as the nation of Israel was waiting for a Messiah in the form of a triumphant king and ruler, the true Messiah prophesied about in the centuries before was growing up among them as a carpenter. As impurity and hate and war and evil swirled around everywhere in the world, and people longed and prayed for a deliverer, Jesus was building a chair for his mother and growing up in obscurity in a small town waiting for the perfect timing of the Father's will.
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of the One who came and shattered the chains of the kingdoms of this world, and introduced the Kingdom of God, overcoming evil and sin and purchasing for us justification and acceptance with the God of the universe. And he came as a baby. And he is now exalted at the right hand of the Father. His kingdom will have no end. Let's honor that this year, not as much with presents, but with presence, to those who he would have loved, cared for, and spent time with. Those in our city who may not be as excited as we are for the upcoming season, and to whom the $450 billion spent per year on Christmas seems hypocritical and appalling. And let's do it proclaiming that Santa Claus is not supreme. Christ is.