We’ve all heard the complaints. We’ve seen the posts on Facebook and Twitter. Christians throughout our country are concerned about the secularization of Christmas. For many, Christmas is no longer the celebration of the birth of our Savior God, but rather the celebration of Santa Claus and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. We join our voices with theirs in saying, “Don’t take the Christ out of Christmas!”
But there is another danger at Christmastime, a much more subtle temptation for Christians. I call it the cute-ization of Christmas. For many Christians today, Christmas is about cute Children’s Christmas programs, sweet sounding Christmas carols and quaint nativity scenes. It is about pretty angels and adorable sheep. But is that really what Christmas is all about – a cute baby asleep in a quiet stable?
You see, you can keep Christ in Christmas and still completely miss the point. So let’s take a moment to look past Santa Claus and the presents and even the cute nativity scenes in store windows to face the reality of Christmas.
The reality of Christmas is a fourteen or fifteen year old girl, a long way from her home and family. See her sweat and tears. We can only imagine that she was scared. This was her first baby and he was being born in a dirty barn. Smell the manure. Hear the screams. Remember, there were no I.V.’s or epidurals in those days.
Then the baby is born. If you’ve ever witnessed a baby being born, they don’t come out cute. They come out slimy. Then comes the blood and the afterbirth.
I’m sorry if that sounds gross, but that’s the reality of Christmas. Then, after the baby was born, he wasn’t laid in a cradle or a crib, wrapped in soft, fluffy blankets. He was laid in a feeding trough, wrapped in rags.
Christmas isn’t about a cute baby being born. It is about Christ’s utter humiliation. The King of the universe left behind the power and glory and comfort of heaven to become one of us. On that day two thousand years ago, God cried for the first time. On that day, God felt pain and hunger and sorrow for the first time. On that day, God became a helpless baby.
And that was just the beginning of a lifetime full of humiliations. He allowed himself to be mocked and ridiculed. He allowed himself to be beaten and spit upon. He allowed himself to suffer the most humiliating death known to mankind. A life which began in utter humiliation also ended in utter humiliation. Jesus was born in Bethlehem to die on Calvary.
But why? Why did he allow himself to suffer such humiliation? Because he loved you so much. He did it to pay for all of your messed up priorities; to pay for your angry words and ugly thoughts; to pay for all your dark and dirty sins. That baby was born to suffer your hell in your place to win for you heaven.
That’s what Christmas is all about. Christmas is about the cross. We worry and fret so much about people taking Christ out of Christmas that we haven’t even noticed that the cross has been removed!
There’s an old cowboy poem written by Gail T. Burton called How Far is it to Bethlehem? It’s the story of two cowboys on the open range at Christmastime debating about how far away Bethlehem was. And at the end of the poem, the one cowboy comes to a realization. He turns to his partner and says, “How far is it to Bethlehem? It’s just halfway to the cross.”
That’s what Christmas is all about: Our God beginning his journey to the cross to save us. My friends, during this Christmas season, don’t take the cross out of Christmas.