Without fail every year there are complaints about the commercialization of Christmas and the emphasis on spending money – say for that $45,000 Lexus, while many families have nothing extra for children or adults. But after seven long years of want and unemployment across the land Christmas 2017, with added cash and hope, shoppers were not complaining about anything more than the traffic – and the prices. (A critic wrote to me to say there was no thing as a Lexus as cheap as $45,000. I stand corrected.)
But that is the surface. There is a hidden benefit to Christmas which is no doubt why God doesn’t seem to mind the glitz and over consumption of it all. And that is because aside from Christmas, how would so many people, especially foreigners in distant isolated lands, without American television or in most homes the Internet as well, know about Christianity?
No other religion has such a worldwide display. There is no birthday bash for Mohammed. Judaism has an interesting history with celebrations in September and October, but there is no glamour in it. Christianity alone takes a day off every year to recognize the birthday of someone very few people on this planet know anything about. The atheists join in the fun as well.
Large swathes of the planet forbid the Bible or Christianity of any kind, some to the point of death or imprisonment. There are no religious bookstores or friendly church suppers where the curious can learn anything new. Even at the birth of Jesus the political leader, Herod, was so terrified of this infant that he slaughtered 6,000 baby boys in Bethlehem. Information about Jesus causes a reaction.
Factory workers in China wonder as they make Christmas items, “Who are these wise men? This ornament cost 400 kuai! That is more than my daily pay!” They have no internet, and religious liberty is more talk than do. Possibly someone at the work table may know what a Christian is. The Chinese prize education and are full of questions. Here is a chance for the lone Christian in that factory to tell the story to one’s fellows. Workers in Taiwan and Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines are also making trees, garlands, jeweled studded ornaments, paper mache decor, blinking lights, some of them very expensive.
Everything we have at Christmas has a spiritual dimension. The tree is both the one that Jesus was crucified on, as well as representing the tree of life. The other tree, The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, was the tree coveted by the First Pair. Jesus is now that new green tree of new life to replace the one we mistakenly chose previously. We learned about evil, but now we also have access to all the knowledge of good – the good God of salvation -as well.
The gifts represent those of the wise men; and those men were foreigners, just like so many worldwide foreign nations, also able to received the works of God. Jesus also promised us gifts on his death – wisdom and knowledge, tongues and interpretation, prophecy and other anointings. God didn’t just give us a son, but also a provider, leader, the King of Kings. Our trinkets pale in comparison.
There is the music business too which reflects the praising angels on high. I wonder how many unbelievers eventually in their lifetimes have a chance to think about the words they sang in a choir somewhere, or heard in the mall. To sing The Messiah is to speak the words of Isaiah about the coming ruler. Do they contemplate the revelation in the lyrics?
What does a person in impoverished Yemen for example, think of the richest nation in the world taking a day off in December to spend money like crazy, eat a fabulous meal, and exchange costly gifts all because of some tiny baby born in the Middle East 2,000 years ago in a barn?
It really makes no sense. But God sees the influence of this outward show and can use it to raise questions in the minds of men and women worldwide. They may ask, as so many already have, “What child is this?”