Summary: The mystery of the incarnation helps us to know: 1. God’s strength is in his apparent weakness. 2. Jesus understands the human condition. 3. God’s desire is to be with us.
A new trend is literally turning a longstanding Christmas tradition on its head. Hammacher Schlemmer, a retail company based in New York, is offering a unique yuletide decoration: the Upside-Down Christmas Tree. The tree is seven feet tall and pre-lit with over 800 commercial grade lights, and it can be yours for the low price of just $599.95. Why would anyone want a tree like that? Well, according to their website, “The inverted shape makes it easier to see ornaments, which hang away from the dense needles,” while “allowing more room for the accumulation of presents underneath.” Now other retailers are offering the upside-down holiday tree — places like ChristmasTreeForMe.com (which has already sold out of its stock), and Target. Target put out a statement similar to Hammacher Schlemmer. They said the trees “leave more room on the floor for gifts.” Only in America! I think it is the perfect symbol for our post-Christian culture: an upside-down tree making room for more presents.
Everyone has become very disturbed that there seems to be an unspoken ban on saying the word “Christmas.” More and more signs are saying “Happy Holidays,” rather than “Merry Christmas.” How rude and crude of Christians to interject their religion in this celebration of our Winter Solstice! The Christmas tree has been renamed as a “holiday” tree in many of the stores and other public displays. But I remember when I was young, and my Dad worked with mostly Jewish men. He told us they put up all the usual decorations for this time of year in their home, but they called their tree a Hanukkah tree. They took the holiday of a religious leader they didn’t believe in and used it as an opportunity to exchange gifts like everyone else. Actually, I think it’s great that the stores and other secular places have stopped using the word Christmas. We used to complain that Christmas was being taken over and had become a secular holiday. We groused that the retailers were just using Christmas to make money. Well, now they are finally being honest and admitting it. Let the world have their holiday trees and holiday sales, and let the people of God reclaim Christmas and celebrate the entrance of Christ into the world. We have said for years that Christ is no longer in Christmas, and now it is out in the open. Let them have their secular and empty holiday, and we will keep our Christmas full of Christ. Let it be a distinctive Christian holy day for those who follow Christ.
Christmas is a day of magic and mystery, because God became a man and walked among us. John says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The only problem was that it did not seem so glorious at the time. Except for the shepherds and Mary and Joseph it seemed bathed in the mundane. One more baby. One more mouth to feed. One squalid stall. One crying newborn. Cute, yes, but mysterious? No. God came in this marvelous disguise of a very ordinary human child. He had to be nursed or he would die. His diaper had to be changed. He had to be wrapped in cloths to keep him warm. There was no halo or extraterrestrial glow about him. His mother probably became overwhelmed at times trying to meet his needs and having him still fuss. As he grew he probably frightened and frustrated her in some of the things he did. He played and got hurt. He got dirty. We know there was sibling rivalry because the Bible tells us that for a long time his brothers did not believe in him, and for a time they claimed he was crazy (John 7:5, Mark 3:21) — the same thing my siblings have at times said about me. He was a very normal child in almost every way
Eight days after he was born, he was circumcised. Then thirty-three days after his circumcision, which was the period for the mother’s purification according to Jewish law, Jesus’ parents took him to the temple in Jerusalem to dedicate him. The sacrifice the parents offered was two doves, instead of a lamb, because they were poor. The poverty of his own family was part of what made Jesus identify with the poor. But when they came to dedicate Jesus, there were two extraordinary people were in the temple. One was a man named Simeon, and another was a woman named Anna. Both were righteous people who spent much time in prayer within the temple area. It had been revealed to Simeon that he would not die before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. When he saw the infant Jesus in his mother’s arms, he took the baby and lifted his voice to heaven saying, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” Then the Scripture says, “The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him” (Luke 2:29-33).