A Christmas Miracle
By Tai Anderson, December 26, 2016
I loved Christmas as a kid. As an adult, I’ve never been a big fan of the holiday. I tend to go for the holidays that just “are what they are” like Thanksgiving and the 4th of July. Christmas feels overwhelming to me as it often seems like we’re trying to celebrate 3 holidays at once. There’s the secular holiday of Santa Claus and gift giving. Then, there’s the “Christian” celebration of the birth of Jesus and the idea that the creator of the universe would be incarnate with humanity as a helpless baby. Then, there's the civic observance of making sure our favorite brands achieve profitability.
Everyone else, at least on Facebook, seems to project a perfect balance between all three. I’ve never struck it. I’ve always thought it was kind of strange as American Christians that we would teach a story that requires a healthy measure of faith involving virgin birth at the same time as we teach the story of a flying obese man who defies gravity and time to leave presents for all the good boys and girls, all while racking up credit card debt at our local mall. We ask our children to believe in both the secular and the sacred, and develop the faith they both require.
Then, we wonder why, when they stop believing in Santa Claus, they also have some profound questions about the validity of the miraculous birth of Jesus. It seems like the whole scenario isn’t doing baby Jesus any favors. At the same time we’re teaching children to have faith in the supernatural, we’re setting the stage to undermine that faith later on.
Whenever I’ve mentioned my Christmas struggles to anyone, I’ve been dismissed as a Scrooge or told I just need to focus on the “real meaning of Christmas," or forwarded another North Point iPad Christmas performance. So, I’ve, by and large, kept my thoughts to myself.
This year, my family gathered at my house for a Christmas celebration. We broke the tradition of a Christmas lamb, ham, or Turkey and opted instead for Mexican catering. Don't worry, we weren’t making some kind of Anti-Trump political statement. We weren't participating in an imagined "War on Christmas." It was just pure logistics. I’m 1 of 8 children. When you throw in spouses and ex-spouses, children and their children, an Anderson gathering easily hits 50 +, with ⅔ of the attendees under 12. We’re just too big for formal, and some of us are still full from our Thanksgiving feast. So, we drank beer and ate our tacos and talked about just how close the Roswell Hornets came to winning a state championship.
Before we dove into a gift exchange, we took a few minutes to celebrate the "real meaning of Christmas." I normally have the honor of reading the Christmas story, but this year, my son TJ stepped up to the plate.
As TJ read the text to the room, some of the verses hit me just a little bit different than ever before. I guess I’d always focused on the miraculous aspects of the story; the angels, the wise men who knew just where to go without Waze, and the idea that the Creator of the universe had arrived on earth on a cosmic rescue mission to reconcile humanity with divinity. There's a lot to get your mind around. It's supernatural.
Maybe, it was the humble nature of our gathering; the blue jean attire, the tacos and cold beer, or the knowledge that it is going to take a Christmas miracle to afford our cell phone bill as we add the 6th line to the family plan, but on this reading of the birth of Jesus, I didn’t focus on the divine. Instead, I focused on the extremely practical; the natural.
Jesus didn’t come as a president or king. He didn’t come as a man of power or wealth or influence. He didn’t even come as a mayor or councilman. Jesus of Nazareth started from nothing. He wasn't even born indoors. He was born in a stinky, uncomfortable barn and placed in a food trough. Yet, with him, Jesus brought a piece of the divine, the kingdom of Heaven, to this world. He brought good news for the poor and a simple message; you matter. The least of you matters. In God’s economy, the Syrian refugee matters just as much as a President. In fact, maybe just a little bit more as God blesses the "humble in spirit."
Jesus didn’t have social media or an iPhone to help spread his message of inverting the entire social/political structure of humanity. He didn’t have online petitions or televised rallies or PACs or CNN or fake news or Twitter. He just used his voice. Jesus didn’t have the printing press or Facebook or even a website to develop his personal brand. He just had 12 good friends that he spent a lot of time with; eating, drinking, camping, and traveling, right in his own backyard. He didn’t build a building or a platform or form a 501c3. Jesus just shared what was on his heart and mind, and that message changed the world.
This year, I heard a different message in the Christmas story:
One person, no matter how humble his/her beginnings, can change the world. You can change the world.
We often focus on the religious and spiritual aspect of Jesus. How can we, by placing our faith in him, make it to heaven when we die? Perhaps, we’re asking the wrong question. Perhaps, the better question is how can we, by modeling Jesus' example, help bring the kingdom of heaven to earth. No matter who you are, you have a bigger platform than Jesus did. You have more influence than Jesus had. If you're able to read this, probably on the supercomputer you hold in your hand, you're living in an incredible time, with incredible access to technological amplification. Your capacity to change the world is limitless.
Maybe this new year is the time to reconcile the spiritual and the physical and focus on what each of us can do to make a tangible difference in the people with whom we interact every day. Perhaps the miracle of Christmas is just as much in the natural as the supernatural, but it's still a miracle nonetheless.