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After Christmas

Now that Christmas is over, we return to reality.

Perhaps that explains why, once again this year, I became wearied with the trappings of Christmas—all the sappy sentimentality and silly pretense. Even the newspapers and television news programs—the supposed messengers of truth and reality in our society—blithely reported the myth of Santa Claus as if it was fact, perpetuating the fallacy that all children magically get what they want at Christmas.

This mindset feeds into the Christmas toy drives, in which people pat themselves on the back for donating a toy, sometimes in exchange for a free breakfast at a posh hotel. It is as if making sure every child (at least, every child in their own city) receives a toy at Christmas will make up for the poverty, abuse, fear, and broken relationships children endure the rest of the year.

It is not that toy drives aren’t good. They are. They deliver encouragement and hope as well as toys. The problem is that they barely scratch the surface of human need. Children need food, shelter, and love as well as toys.

The biblical story of Christmas is far different. There is no sappy sentimentality there. The biblical story deals with life as it really is. Jesus was born into a context of political corruption, murder, social injustice, poverty, hate, sin, and brokenness. I wonder if anyone thought about organizing a toy drive for the children in Bethlehem.

The evil of the world in the first century and in the twenty-first century cannot be resolved with a toy or by pretending to believe in Santa Claus. Jesus did not come into the world to distribute toys. Jesus came to earth to die. Jesus came into the world to defeat evil and to save sinners.

Some of this realism is reflected in a poem I wrote earlier last year.

  After Bethlehem

After Bethlehem,

the shepherds returned to their sheep

as poor and despised as ever.

It would be another thirty years

before Jesus’ provision of healing, miraculously multiplied food and teaching

would be available,

and by then

many of them would be dead.

In the long watches of the night,

did they ever question

whether that stumbling trek in the dark

had been worth it?


And yet

And yet

Flitting around the edges of their anxious hearts and minds

was the faint, lingering memory

that angels had spoken to them

from the starry sky

and that the Almighty Creator God

beyond the cold, distant stars

had thought them worthy of receiving

a message denied to kings and priests.

That lingering memory

had left a faint, barely understood hope

that somehow, sometime, somewhere

things would be made alright at the end.

And that lingering memory

had left a faint, barely understood purpose,

a message to pass on to all who would listen

that somehow, sometime, somewhere

God had broken into their world and was doing something.

Nothing had changed

Everything had changed

after Bethlehem.


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