Which Christmas Story are We Telling?

[ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Blair Roberts is a rare forest creature found in the jungles of Botswana. He hibernates most of winter living off stored body fat. In real life, he somehow has a beautiful wife and two sweet girls that make his life greater than he deserves.]

story

What’s the narrative the world hears about the meaning of Christmas? There are several false narratives being told, and it’s time we abandon them.

no santaThere’s a war, apparently.  At least, that’s what cable news would have us believe. Fights about Wal-Mart saying ‘Merry Christmas’ vs. ‘Happy Holidays’, debates about ‘Christmas Pageants’ vs. ‘Holiday Concerts’, and arguments over whether to display, as Ricky Bobby would say, ‘8-pound, 6-ounce sweet baby Jesus’ on the steps of city hall with all the other nativity scene setters. If this is a war, it’s tough to get a read on who the enemy is. Wal-Mart? Public schools? Government? Christians fighting for their place in society? Or the ones rolling their eyes, unable to see the point?

It’s hard for me to understand why people argue about this sort of thing.  I mean no disrespect to whatever side you might sit on. I simply don’t understand the prize being sought through such battles. For many Christians, the “war on Christmas” has become about forcing our God on secular realms like business and government, when the real war on Christmas comes from the Enemy in the form of distractions and useless arguments.

A more central point seems to me that the narrative of Christmas should be embodies in the waiting of Advent. As Sarah Bessey says on her blog, if Christmas is about joy, then advent is about longing. And longing is a powerful force.

Most agree: Christmas has become too much about consumption and spending money we don’t have to buy things we don’t need (yes, I stole this line from ‘Fight Club’, just tidied it up a bit). The economy and Black Friday are more important story lines to many than the story of the incarnational God who came to earth as a child to live among us and rescue his people. If there’s a war to be waged, it should be a war fought against the false narrative. We should be compelling people to come to the Saviour born — and still living — among us rather than arguing with school boards and corporations. We need to say, “Come! There is a child born that saved the world! And someday soon, he’s coming back for us. Come! Wait with us in eager anticipation!” I wish that narrative was the norm.

Advent is all about the waiting: the anticipation of our coming Christ and the anxious longing for our Saviour to return at the Father’s selected time. Let’s give the people something to anticipate. Because if all we have to look forward to is arguments over supporting stores that say ‘Merry Christmas’, then Christmas isn’t nearly as important as we make it out to be. Our God is bigger than that. It has to be about more than this. Of all people, Christians should know this and spread the true story at Christmas.

People are compelled by stories, not by demands that the world look and act like us. If Jesus coming to earth is truly the greatest story ever told, let’s spend Advent waiting anxiously for its arrival and sharing that story with anyone willing to listen. Rather than the busy rush that comes from over-consumption and fighting for our piece of the pie, let us wait in eager longing for the peace of a child born in a manger. Let’s prepare the world for that story. It’s time to change the narrative. Here is the story we should be telling people.

1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.  2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord— 3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. 5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling[a] together; and a little child will lead them. 7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.  9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.

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