I was doing a bit of shopping in the middle of November, and as I strolled down the isle looking for some shaving cream, I found myself thinking about how fast this fall has come and gone. Then it hit me; I was listening to Bing Crosby singing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” playing over the store’s speakers! Not only has fall gone, but the retail giants have decided to bypass Thanksgiving and go directly to their version of Christmas: “Jingle buy, jingle buy, jingle all the way.” I wish the retail giant’s executives could have seen me covering my ears and heading directly to the check out line – shopping trip over.
Yes, it is true; we really do live in a culture that has flattened the remembrance of Christ’s birth to the horizontal world of merchandise. And unfortunately, Thanksgiving seems to have gotten in the way and been flattened like roadkill. As I reflected on that shopping experience, it dawned on me once again that there is simply no room for Jesus in this flat world of thankless selling, buying, and consuming. And while the experts may tell us that it is all good for the economy, we know deep down that it is not at all good for the soul.
The absolute best part of Christmas is that it is not flat at all, but in fact, it is very tall. Its height comes from what the Bible tells us about God coming down to us from the highest heaven into our flat world of useless human activity. Indeed, Christmas is special because of its vertical dimension. And I am convinced that when we bypass Thanksgiving, we lose an important preparation for Christmas. This happens because at Thanksgiving we count our earthly blessings, and then look up to God and give thanks to him. We look away from ourselves and to the gracious hand of God. And this is exactly where, or should I say, “to whom,” we need to be looking as we head into the Christmas season.
So, I hope you all had a really thankful Thanksgiving, and that you are still looking up to heaven as you head into the Christmas season. But if that is not where you are looking, it is not too late! It may take a bit of an effort to hear it over the constant din of “Jingle Buy” being pumped at us, but the voice of the Christmas angel can still be heard,
...the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end. (Luke 1:30-33, NIV)
“Son of the Most High” – Christmas really isn’t flat at all, so look up. But also remember what he came to do, namely, to take on human flesh and identify with us as our brother. He did this so he could substitute himself for us on a cross to give us his gift of forgiveness and eternal life. So now when we measure the height Jesus came from, and the depth he went to; Christmas really is quite tall! May you have a really tall Christmas!