The tree is up, I ate my morning cereal in a Christmas bowl, and the girls are playing with the Little People Nativity. It is strange to look around the house, prepared for Christmas, and remember God was born in a barn. That a teenager gave birth among animals and the world’s savior was laid in the manger – a feed trough. These were humble beginnings, but the humiliation of the manger is lost in our decorations. I would guess we have a dozen nativity sets: one from Haiti, one of porcelain, one of clay. In stores you can buy nativities for a price that would allow Mary and Joseph to escape the barn for a hotel suite. This is how Capitalism makes Christmas its own.
So decorating the house for Christmas is a collision in meaning: Are these the symbols of consumerism or Christ? While the church struggles to assimilate everyone, Capitalism is a religion up to the task! The star or angel still mark the way, but no longer point to the manger. Instead they stand over the Christmas tree, a place for presents**. In Capitalism the answer to the question “Is Christmas about presents or Christ?” becomes “Both!”
**Do you even remember the Christian symbolism of the evergreen tree? Alive through the winter, it is a symbol of hope among dormant trees. As Christ brought life into a world bound by death.
Stop with me. Though I agree with some of what Pope Francis said about Capitalism, my point is not to bash the system. Nor am I counting your nativities to judge – nor the presents under your tree (or trees!).
My point. Capitalism, consumerism, connect with people where they are living. Lots of people celebrate Christmas – so Wal-Mart and Target and businesses everywhere use that to their advantage. They do not dilute their mission (making money), but combine their mission with what already interests people.
In the same way the church should draw people. Finding places of connection – rather than demand everything change. People love sports – how can we connect? People love coffee, local grown foods, smartphones, Hunger Games… how can we connect?
After-all, many think Christmas started as a Pagan Holiday – a celebration of the Winter Solstice. There are those who reject this theory, but it makes perfect sense to me. Christians, reaching out to pagans, joined the celebration. And they turned the purpose to Christ.
Which is the action of God. Jesus was born as a human to turn our purposes back to Him. He did not arrive as a king, with power and authority, but He joined the plight of the commoner. He walked with us, ate with us, celebrated with us… and when the wine ran out, Jesus made more. When there was death, Jesus wept. When the people were angry with judgement, Jesus refused to cast stones.
So have a Merry Christmas. And as you do all things turn the purpose back to Christ.