In those days, the advertisers declared that everyone throughout the world should spend Friday shopping in stores and Monday shopping on the internet and that this season should last until December 26th when everything that has been bought is returned or exchanged for store credit. This first occurred when the markets were booming and people became too busy to worry about quality when they could have quantity. Everyone went to the stores to wait in line, trying to find the best deals.
Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. (Luke 2:4) He went to shop with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant. They joined the crowds on the way to the stores.
While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly in her (Luke 2:6-7b) cloth shopping bags, and laid him in their cart, because there was no way to get past the mobs of people in the store.
If the cry of new life occurs amidst the best sales of the year, does it make a sound?
The worshipping community that I am a part of has been studying Luke. Each week, whether we are meeting for formational work or worship, we have read a passage in Luke together. It seems appropriate that the birth of Christ came up for our reading on the Monday before Thanksgiving.
Christmas has already been in the stores for almost a month. Shopping lists for gifts are kept next to the shopping list for Thanksgiving groceries. We’ll have hardly digested one before we dig into the other.
In our efforts to shape God in our own image, as a culture we have erased the boundaries of time and season – which we shape in the image of our own desires.
Thanksgiving isn’t a religious holiday but it could be in both its intent and timing. It is good to stop and give thanks for all God has provided – and to celebrate God’s goodness with family and friends. But Thanksgiving is really just the appetizer of our greatest Thanksgiving: that the Word became flesh and lived among us.
I recently read in a church newsletter that Christmastide activities were going to require over 300 volunteers (and even more hours). As with most churches, these will be community-building activities and meaningful worship services. Christmas is one of the few times (the others being Easter and Mother’s Day) that many will enter a church. As a people who are called to share the Good News – with great joy! – I understand the many programs and activities we, the Church, add in the six weeks of Advent to Epiphany.
But I also wonder if this hasn’t become the other side of the secular Christmas (or, excuse me, holiday) coin. If all these wonderful things aren’t more that cause us to shape God and the incarnation into our own image. If putting Jesus in the manger isn’t just as idolatrous as putting Jesus in the shopping cart.
My prayer for myself, my family, my friends, for you, for the Church is that we provide room (or womb) for Jesus to be incarnate in our lives this Thanksgiving and Christmas season. This will look different for everyone, and all we may be able to do this year is to not buy one gift (and it can be the one you were going to buy for me), not attend one party, not go to one more store, not make one more type of Christmas cookie (Mom, please make me the mochas but I can bring the peanut butter star cookies), or not put up “those” lights this year. The God who created time and season bring order out of chaos, who took on the cloak of humanity, who is present with us yet today has already created in advance one hour for us to rest in the joyful, good news of the incarnation. May we receive this loving gift.
I know it’s only November 25th, but I still offer this passage in Luke for reflection in your Thanksgiving celebrations and your Christmas preparations:
In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom. – Luke 2:1-7 (CEB)