Heralding Jesus’ birth with credit cards

Published 8:27 pm Friday, November 23, 2012

By Chris Surber

Christmas season is upon us. In fact, I think it’s been with us since at least Labor Day.

Throughout the age of the church, Christians have heralded the birth of Jesus in different ways. Interestingly, there is little historic evidence that the early church even emphasized the birth of Jesus as a major holy day. In fact, there is little evidence of Christmas being celebrated as an independent and major holy day prior to about 340 A.D.

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In the Medieval church, the birth of Jesus was celebrated widely but with a far greater emphasis upon Mary than most Christians place upon her today.

The modern church heralds Jesus’ birth with credit cards and Christmas carols. We spend Jesus into the world and sing songs about snow and sleigh bells.

Our observances have more in common with scenes from Normal Rockwell paintings, Charlie Brown cartoons, and antique J.C. Penny catalogues than with the biblical narrative of the birth of Jesus.

Advent, the season of Christmas, is a time of waiting and anticipating — but not for glibly wrapped plastic things in boxes. For Christians, this season has long been a time of identifying with the hopeful expectation of God’s ancient people for the coming of Messiah, the savior, redeemer — Emmanuel.

For those Christians who observe the liturgical seasonal colors, local meeting houses will be adorned with Paraments of purple, honoring of the divinity of Christ. For others, twinkling lights and shiny worship banners are being hung.

Regardless of the details of how we celebrate and decorate, it is altogether too easy to forget how desperately our souls need Jesus to come; how dreadfully in need of a savior we are.

Sitting in our well-decorated, warm churches, it’s easy to forget that we do not anticipate His coming in the same way one anticipates the arrival of aunt Suzy for Christmas dinner.

We await the coming of Messiah the way a flood victim awaits rescue workers while floating with no means of escape in a basement flooding with a ceaseless rush of water. The water gushes in. The cold of it tightens our chest. The force of the water sends us into a panic.

Just then we hear the crash of an ax against a barricaded door and see light beaming through the broken glass of tiny basement windows. Suddenly a voice calls out to us: “Your rescue has arrived. In a moment we’ll have you out of the darkness. You’re safe.”

Friend, shiny presents can’t do that. Christmas lights, beautiful as they may be, herald the coming of the light of the world. Presents under trees point to the greatest present ever conceived. That tree, oh the tree, is a shadow of the tree upon which the greatest gift ever given hung in order to display the mercy of God and provide a means of grace to save humanity.

I like to buy presents, and I like to see my children smile, but won’t you join me in heralding the coming of the Christ child with a song of praise, a heart of adoration, and spirit of thankfulness for the wonder of the grace of God?

Chris Surber is pastor of Cypress Chapel Christian Church in Suffolk. Visit his website at www.chrissurber.com.