Now What?

In The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey writes about the journeys of Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit missionary, to 16th century China. In an effort to teach the story of Jesus across the language barrier he took several pieces of art depicting the life of Christ. The first images that he showed them were images of Mary holding her child. The Chinese looked on these serene, nurturing scenes with admiration. But when Ricci introduced them to images of Jesus’ crucifixion, his audience recoiled in disgust. He found himself struggling to convince them that this man who had been executed like a common criminal was actually the one who was worthy of their adoration. Instead, their affections gravitated toward the matronly virgin holding the infant Christ.
Yancey goes on to note that, if the Christmas cards he receives are any indicator, most of us prefer to do the same. He says: “We observe a mellow, domesticated holiday purged of any hint of scandal. Above all, we purge from it any reminder of how the story that began in Bethlehem turned out at Calvary.”
As you know, I’m a big proponent of celebrating Christmas with everyone else in December. Never mind that we don’t know when Jesus was born. If so many others are mindful of Jesus’ birth this time of year, then let’s do the same.
In fact, I think we should do many of our fellow celebrants one better. For most, Christmas ended at midnight last night. In no time at all we’ll see trashcans stuffed full of cardboard and wrapping paper. Once-green Christmas trees will be lying curbside, turning gray. And all of the baby Jesus’ resting in their mangers will be stowed away in attics and sheds until after Thanksgiving next year.
But for us, Christmas is just beginning. Immanuel, “God With Us,” is still with us. And he’s got more to do than just lie in a manger not making any noise. In fact he wants to make quite a bit of noise. And we need to pay attention.
Christ is born in Bethlehem. Now the real work can begin. Let’s start this morning.