I imagine that the one thing that most of us really enjoy about Christmas is the sense of nostalgia and tradition that it has come to represent in our lives. We choose to spend time with family, and we take part in activities that help us to get into “the Christmas spirit.” You know, eggnog, tinsel, mistletoe… all that good stuff.
In the big picture, however, it seems like all the focus on Christmas tradition is a little bit… well… misplaced. Not that traditions aren’t important — they’re great. They’re one of the things that help to hold families together. But in light of all the events that precipitated the first Christmas, our collective focus on the traditional seems, to me at least, a little bit absurd.
Because Christmas, fundamentally, is about unexpected change.
Let’s face it — if some teenage girl suddenly showed up pregnant and tried to convince the people around her that The Holy Spirit was the father of the child… my guess is, most of us wouldn’t just go on with our regular business. We’d be peppering her with invasive questions. Some of us would try to psychoanalyze her. Or try to book her for an appearance on Jerry Springer.
Plus, the whole idea of God coming down here, where we are… well, without any divine revelation, the whole thing seems kind of ridiculous. Why would he want to do that? Does God know how ugly it gets down here? With the pollution and the hostility and the road rage from people who can’t drive in the snow?
It’s crazy down here, God. Are you sure you know what you’re doing?
See, that’s what I think God loves to do the most. He loves to dote over his children, and just when they think they’ve got Him figured out — booyah — He goes the other way. He pulls something out that’s totally unexpected.
And it makes history.
And even though we’ve all heard the facts about the Christmas story a thousand times over, I think we miss the collective whoa factor of it all, because we have the benefit of centuries’ worth of perspective and commentary. But if something that crazy happened today, I don’t think it would just be business as usual.
The only comparison I can think of is what happened a few years ago at a Dairy Queen in Coppell, Texas. Customers at this normally sleepy location were lined up around the block to get in, because manager Parrish Chapman had a new trainee that day — internet billionaire Mark Cuban, the owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.
A few weeks earlier, Cuban had criticized then-head of NBA officiating Ed Rush because he felt his team was being unfairly penalized and Rush’s office wasn’t listening to his repeated complaints. During a postgame interview with local media, Cuban, fuming as usual, said that Ed Rush couldn’t manage a Dairy Queen. Naturally, the good folks at DQ heard about it, and challenged him publicly. Basically, their attitude was, if managing a DQ is so easy, why don’t YOU give it a try?
So he did.
And this, in my opinion, is — pardon the cliche — what Christmas is all about. The inexplicable madness of someone with all of the money, status and clout of Mark Cuban, taking the time to learn how to work the ‘Blizzard’ machine and make dip cones. An unexpected, almost random act that demonstrates an underlying passion. In this case, it was Cuban’s passion for publicity more than anything else. But with God, it’s a passion for His people, a desire to show us how to live this life the way He intended.
Now don’t take this and run too far with it.
If anyone asks you, “So, what did Jelani have to say in his Christmas column?” and your answer is “he says Mark Cuban is God,” then you’ve missed the point entirely.
My point is that part of the (*ahem*) magic of the season comes from the fact that God is continually at work in the earth in ways that defy our imagination and expectation.
Yes, God is a righteous God, yes, he wants us to be law-abiding, moral people… blah blah blah. You can hear that message at a lot of churches this time of year. What I’m saying is that He’s not just the Great Hall Monitor in the Sky, boring us to death with a bunch of rules and regulations and restrictions on all the really fun stuff.
On the contrary, God is alive and well, and His level of creativity and omnipotence is second to none. And sometimes his plans consist of the most incomprehensible combinations of phenomena.
I mean, I can just imagine the Father, in his divine conference room, drawing up his plans on the heavenly whiteboard while Jesus and the Holy Spirit ask clarifying questions.
“So, we’re gonna send Jesus to earth, and he’s gonna live the life, okay, I get all that, but okay, where is he gonna start?”
“Well, actually Bethlehem. And then, you know, later on, Nazareth.”
“Hmm… you’re sure about this now?”
“Yep. Trust me, Jesus, it’s gonna be great.“
“So who are gonna be the parents?”
“Mary and… well, technically, I guess Joseph, too.”
“Well, yeah. I mean, he’s gonna raise you up, show you how to tie your sandals, you know, all that.”
“But he’s not actually going to…”
“So how is she gonna get pregnant?”
“Funny you should ask…”
I’m having fun with this, of course, but don’t let my propensity for imaginary dialogue distract you from the Truth.
Christmas is about God interacting with our world, and the eternal hilarity that ensues as a result. So as you continue in your holiday cheer, keep that in mind. Don’t be rattled by the inevitable surprises He will put in your path. Just trust Him and enjoy the ride.
I’m G*Natural; thanks for mixin’ it up with me.