Nov. 30, 2011
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
On my to-do list this week is to make a list of all the things I want to accomplish before Christmas. As I’ve been thinking about this list, I’m truly pondering what will “make” it and what won’t.
I ordered a picture Christmas card tonight, so that will make the list. Walgreens is running a great sale through Nov. 30. I had to make a decision. A little shopping, mostly for the grandkids. But I’m re-thinking about people I usually get a gift for. Maybe I won’t get them a gift this year. I hope they understand. I’ve decided that Christmas cookies aren’t on the list this year. I know – almost sacreligious! I’ve decided that I really need to be disciplined about what I put in my mouth before Christmas to avoid becoming the next likely candidate for “The Biggest Loser.” Vegetables have to have a higher priority than peanut butter cups or cut-out cookies. We’ll see if I break down and make the famous “Deaton Santa Claus cookies” right before Chrsitmas or not. Decorations: I’m sure we’ll put some up. I ordered a new set of LED lights for the tree but that’s the only “new” decorations I’m buying this year.
According to the National Retail Frederations, as of 2010, adult consumers spent an average of $830 each on holiday food, decorations and presents. In a two-parent family, that equals about $1,660.
We wonder why Christmas has been hijacked and exploited. Too often, Americans, including Christians, profess alligiance to Jesus but celebrate his birth with an orgy of materialism.
Think about what $1,660 might mean to a charitable organization. Or $830. I know the non-profit that I work for would benefit greatly from either of these amounts … even 25% of the $1,660.
Many years ago, Michael Slaughter, the lead pastor of the Ginghamsburg UMC in Ohio challenged families to take the amount of money they were spending on their family Christmas and spend an equal amount of money on either a needy family or a non-profit donation. If you were spending $1,000 on your family Christmas, then give $1,000 away. I remember mentioning this in church the Advent I heard about this. There were some raised eyebrows and but probably no takers.
The miracle of Christmas doesn’t relate to what presents we buy, who has the coolest Christmas card or whether or not rosettes get made. It’s not even deciding which house looks like the Griswalds. The miracle of Christmas is that a teen-aged virgin gave birth to God’s Son and that he was called Immanuel – God with us. God decided that the world needed redeeming and the only way it would really work is if God’s Son did the redeeming. I’m not quite sure why that was the only possible solution. This was God’s decision and I’m in no position to question God’s solution.
The prophet Isaiah tells us the sign comes through the virgin’s baby. Imagine the responsibility for a teenaged girl to carry and give bith to God with us. Talk about intense and overwhelming! But Mary did it seemingly with respect, humbleness and tact.
Even though the birth took place 2,000 years ago, Immanuel – God with us, continues to be with us today. He’s the reason why we even celebrate Christmas. He’s the miracle of the season. Nothing else. Anything I put on my to-do list before Christmas is measureably insignificant to this miracle. What I need to put on my list is how I might assist in allowing a miracle to be part of someone else’s Advent. More on this tomorrow.