Who gets top billing in your Christmas celebrations: Santa Claus or Jesus? Here’s a picture from 1959 taken at Montgomery Wards department store, Ft. Worth, Texas. I’m six and already I’m beginning to wonder who God really is. Is God really making a list and checking it twice. Am I on the nice list or the naughty? I already know what my Father would say. Most importantly, what will I get for Christmas? I gave him an excellent list. I’m expecting a miracle.
A day will come when I’ve turned sixteen, when I’ll walk out into the cold night air a day or two after Christmas and all of that Christmas feeling will be gone. I’ll be angry about the things I didn’t get, especially since I gave Him a very specific list. I’ll scoff at the whole charade: “people were so nice two days ago, but now they’ve gone back to their same old selfish ways; anyway, it’s all so commercialized, and now it’s all on sale, cheap. Christmas is all a big lie!”
Maybe so. But that year, at the age of six, I simply sat in his lap, at peace, with the faith of a child, excited and filled with expectation. I expected a miracle.
How about you? Do you expect a miracle at Christmas time? Christmas is a miracle, always has been, always will. But that miracle is not what most people expect. Here’s Jesus quoting Isaiah. Luke 4.18-21: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
In the Bible “hearing” was more than an auditory experience; hearing meant doing. When Jesus said things like “all those who have ears to hear, let them hear” he wasn’t just referring to sound waves registering on eardrums. Hearing meant doing.
Jesus was not the Messiah most people were expecting or hoping for. I bet no one put Jesus on his or her Santa list. Jesus rejected human obsessions with wealth, power, and recognition. He identified with the weak and powerless, the widow and the orphan. He did not condemn sinners, like a lot of “Christians” do; Jesus defended sinners. In the words of Isaiah and in the life of Jesus we see into the heart of the real Christmas miracle. Want to know what God is really like? Look at Jesus. Want to know what we should be like? Look at Jesus.
In the Christmas story, especially in the experience of Mary, we discover that miracles don’t just happen, they’re born; and that involves pain. How does God change the world? By using you and me. So let’s expect a miracle this Christmas. And let’s be miracle workers ourselves. I know our world is full of trouble; this December will be no different. But I also believe that our world is wonder full. And just as trying-to-be-Christian people have done for 2,000 years, let’s do our bit to change the world this year, to add our own bit of color and good cheer, hospitality and laughter, lovely music, kindness and compassion.
This Advent season how about making a list of 1, 2, 3 things you could do to produce a miracle in someone’s life this Christmas. God changes the world one person at a time. Want to join in?