It’s gone. Christmas is gone. The only signs that indicate Christmas may have stopped by recently are a pretty sad-looking partially-shriveled poinsettia by the fireplace and a dry Christmas wreath on the front door. Marti was playing with the idea of keeping up the whimsical Santa and his reindeer set she likes so much, but in the end it came down too. At some point you have to move on. Our point just came late this year — later than ever. Most of you are thinking, “Christmas? Is he still talking about Christmas?”
I’ve been mulling over yesterday’s Catch which reflected on the secularization of the sacred part of Christmas, and it has made me see again what I had forgotten: that the world will indulge in the manger scene — even in the angelic choir and its proclamation of peace on earth — but that’s about as far as it goes. Keep the Son of God as a baby. It may be Jesus, but it’s baby Jesus somewhere away in a manger. Far away. Everybody loves a baby. Everybody can celebrate a baby in a manger. It’s cute. It’s endearing. It’s a baby, for heaven’s sake. Who can resist a baby?
My wife was instrumental in bringing New York’s famous Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular starring the Radio City Rockettes to Branson, Missouri. As a result of her high-level connections with Radio City Music Hall, she was able to bring our family back stage and front and center for the New York show (it was the only time I’ve ever shared an elevator with a live camel). The show ends with what is probably the most lavish manger scene on record, complete with live sheep, camels, shepherds and wise men who process onto the stage in full regalia while the lyrics of “One Solitary Life,” adapted from a sermon by Dr. James Allan Francis in 1926, are read and scrolled on the screen. This is at the end of the show, after the dancing Rockettes have entertained to the secular Christmas songs of jingling bells, silver bells and little toy soldiers. The scene ends with the haunting words: “I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.” It’s an unexpected tribute to Christianity in a commercial Christmas show whose investors and owners are primarily Jewish.
Yet as powerful as this presentation is, the rest of the story of Jesus — His life, death and resurrection — is left for people to find out from other sources, and we certainly hope many do. Yet with all of this, Jesus remains a baby in a manger.
No wonder. A grown-up Jesus is a threat to our sensibilities, to our best thoughts about ourselves, to our pharisaical attitudes, our attempts at righteousness, our judgments, our pride, and His cruel death on a cross proclaims loudly our sinfulness and need for a savior. Thank you, Jesus, for becoming a baby. Thank you, Jesus, for not staying a baby. And thank you, Jesus, for not staying far away.