Zecharaiah 7:8-8:8But they refused to listen, and turned a stubborn shoulder, and stopped their ears in order not to hear. 12They made their hearts adamant in order not to hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his spirit through the former prophets.
Yesterday I was with two of my dearest friends. We have grown up together and shared every season of life together – childhood, high school, college, marriages, motherhood, and now for both of them, grand-motherhood. One was describing how she was introducing to her oldest granddaughter, Sally – only 3 – JESUS and his upcoming birthday into the mix of all the Santa Claus Christmas messages surrounding her.
Sally is being raised like many – most? – by non-church-going parents. Believers they might be, but with some serious doubts. Yet they know enough to ‘allow’ my grandmother friend to speak faith into their daughter’s life and I suspect even delight that their daughter has a voice raising her with the knowledge and love of God, our Father.
So, one of the stories she has been telling her little granddaughter is a simple one. It is about a baby’s birth in the world, that his name is Jesus, and that we celebrate his BIRTH day every year on what she has come to know as Christmas. And that Jesus, who’s birth we celebrate, was a gift to the world from God, His father. That this is a season to rejoice at the birth of this one named Jesus and that Santa Claus, with the power of the Holy Spirit, rejoices with us – helps us rejoice at Jesus’ birth.
In her home, she has decorations that convey this simple message to her granddaughter – that blend some of the secular images of our day with the truth of the season. Here to the right, for example, is Santa with his birthday hat on (advent wreath) celebrating Jesus’ birth day, and the one below is Santa with the Holy Spirit guiding him in this season of rejoicing.
The story continues.
The little one was out one day with her grandmother, my friend. And she noticed on a window a manger scene sticker and excitedly pointed it out to her grandmom, “Look, baby Jesus! They are celebrating his birthday!”
What struck me when I heard the story is how rare it is in our world that the store front would even have such a sticker. We live on the secularized West Coast where a local cities are receiving legal complaints that City Halls are lighted in ‘religious’ colors – green and red. Not even! Where Holiday lighting ceremonies are big deals and well attended as kick offs to the ‘holiday’ shopping season. Where “Christmas” is being extracted from the listing of “Carols” in favor of “Seasonal Songs.” Don’t get me started.
But this describes the tone out here, very close to the tone in Israel to which Zechariah refers today – ‘their hearts adamant in order not to hear‘ – of this HOLIDAY – not CHRISTMAS season.
So, that is why the manger scene sticker on the window of a retail establishment was such a surprise – -there are fewer and fewer visual or audio reminders in the public arena that point to Jesus – to the reason for the season. I commented to my friend how rarely any of us hear, Merry Christmas, any more but for our worship communities. Their hearts adamant in order not to hear.
That God’s little one would glimpse the manger scene and give a shout out to Jesus – well that was a moment of grace. Had my friend not shared the real story of Christmas – albeit the beginnings and a simple one – she would have likely walked right past the little manger scene where Jesus’ birthday was being celebrated – and straight towards Santa’s chair for a chance to let him know what she wanted for Christmas.
That’s what many grandparents are doing with their grandkids in my neck of the woods – taking them to see ‘Santa,’ to ice skate, to see the pretty lights, to chop down a holiday tree, to make seasonal sweets, taking family photos and writing an essay about their lives to share as a holiday greeting to friends. A people adamant not to acknowledge the reason for the season.
Dan Piraro once again illuminates in his Bizarro strip the rub – the disconnect that has landed in a world and culture adamant not to hear ‘the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his spirit,” that Jesus Christ is born!
Would that all the children of the secular world have a voice like my friend. May the Holy Spirit guide each of us to be that voice to someone this Advent Season.
Daily Lectionary Readings:
Psalm 40, 54; PM Psalm 51
Zech. 7:8-8:8; Rev. 5:6-14; Matt. 25:14-30