Luke 2:7 – And [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (NIV)
'Tis the season of peace and joy. It's Christmas! Yet the tranquility keeps getting interrupted by controversies over the tradition. Ban nativity crèches! Ban carols from our schools! Ban Christmas trees from public buildings! And there's been no end of backlashes.
I am baffled: How can a lowly infant of ancient times cause such a political and cultural battlefront? Why is there even a need to dispute over nativity icons in public spaces? In the Scriptures, no Christmas angel announced Jesus' birth in Caesar's courts. Angels didn't even visit the temple or tell the religious authorities about the glad tidings.
Instead, the angels visited some social outcasts — poor shepherds who were banned from the temple because they were too "defiled". Some distant foreigners received the news by a star. They eagerly set out on a long, dangerous journey through the desert to see this special Child. Yet when a nearby ruler, King Herod, heard, he feared that a rival king had been born in his territory. So he declared war on the Christ Child: He set out to annihilate all male infants — just to be sure … so he thought.
Mary's Boy Child was not glad tidings for everyone — especially for those who craved power and dominance.
Consider this: Jesus was born at the height of the Roman Empire. Today, we marvel over Rome's breathtaking symbols of power — their buildings, monuments, and so forth. On the downside, Rome's power and wealth were acquired by massive pillaging and genocide — bullying on the grandest scale. Even still, this supreme empire became the ideal model for power-hungry empires in future eras. Baby Jesus' arrival would not have been glad tidings for such zealous empire builders any more than it was for King Herod.
Does it not seem strange that any crèche or any Christmas feature appears in centres of power or wealth, or even creaturely comforts? After all, the Child was placed in a manger because there was no room for Him anywhere. And ever since that dark, quiet night, there has been no room for Him in many a heart.
Jesus came to bring peace and joy — not through symbols of either stately power or religious expression. He deployed neither sword nor crèche … but Himself.
As I see it, the real war on Christmas is not over its symbols, but over this Christ child. The real war zone is not in the courts, schools, or marketplaces, but in our own hearts. That is where He is either a threat to our ambitions and pride or a welcoming King of kings.
May the Spirit of the Christ child rule your heart with the comfort of peace and joy!
- O come to my heart, Lord Jesus;
There is room in my heart for Thee.
My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus,
When Thou comest and callest for me.
– Emily E. Elliott