In Part I of Our Christmas Scandal we said, “When we think about Christmas we certainly don’t think about scandal. Christmas today is all about celebrations and bright lights and traffic jams and parties. But if we don’t admit and acknowledge the Christmas scandal, we will never fully understand what Christmas is truly all about.”
The true story of Christmas originated in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned. Fast forward to today for a moment. We make Christmas all gooey and sweet with a cute baby in a manger, some shepherds, a few animals standing around, a bright star overhead. All peace, love and joy. Pristine. But the real scene was nasty. The manger was a trough animals fed from and slobbered in, the shepherds were social outcasts, dirt-poor and smelled bad. There was straw and dust and dirt all around. Mary was dead tired. It was not all sweet and peaceful, like our church and retail nativity scenes would suggest.
I originally published this post on December 21, 2011. Enjoy.
Truth is: we like making Christmas look good and feel good. We’d rather think about mistletoe, or egg nog, or grandma’s sugar cookies, or decorating the tree than we would about adultery or embezzlement or rape or incest or murder or fraud or poverty (the realistic state of our society). We’d rather think about anything else besides sin. Our sin. (“Wait,” you say. “I haven ‘t committed any of those horrible sins.”) Maybe not, but sin is still a part of our lives.) We often use the trappings of Christmas to hide the scandal of our sins, just like Adam and Eve hid themselves in the tall grass from God in the Garden.
They felt guilty and ashamed, because their sin taught them the difference between good and evil. They disobeyed God. They chose to rely on this ugly thing we call, “self.” Of course, they could have gone to God and said, “Father, we’re sorry. We have sinned against you.” But, they didn’t. They lost their purity, their perfect environment.
So the hid.
Then they tried to soft-peddle their predicament, reduce their guilt, pass the blame buck around. But they could not escape their fall from God’s perfect grace. Consequently all their offspring (all of us) became a universe of sinners. What was God’s response? He spelled out the consequences they would experience because they disobeyed. Then, “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” Genesis 3:21 KJV.
Where did the skins from? God had to slaughter animals for skins to cover Adam and Eve. He knew the only thing that would atone for sin is blood. (Are you seeing where we’re going here? Stay with me.)
Fast forward to the present, Christmas 2011. Think about your schedule. Not just at Christmas, but all the time. We get absorbed in work, sports, church, family, social events and more. “But we can easily use these things, the way Adam and Eve used the trees in the garden, to hide ourselves from God. Or more correctly to distract ourselves from God…People flee from God through alcohol, drugs, gambling, pornography, but we aren’t as quick to recognize that we may use the good things of life…to hide ourselves from God, or God’s commands. Well, this is the scandal.1
That’s why we need Christmas. Christmas came to us because God had to make a way to resolve the scandal. When we read modern secular Christmas stories like Charles Dickens’ The Christmas Carol, we get a picture of the consummate bad guy, Ebenezer Scrooge. Dickens says Scrooge, “was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner.” And what happened at the end of the story? “It was always said of [Scrooge], that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.” Talk about a conversion!
Whether we’re talking about Scrooge or Adam and Eve or Bob or Carol or Ted or Alice, all of us have to deal with the scandal of our human condition. We have to acknowledge our sin. We need a new birth. A new us. We need transformation. The old man in us must die and Jesus Christ must become our life. That’s the only way we can resolve our Christmas scandal.
That’s why Jesus came on that beautiful, starry night in Bethlehem. And that’s why we need Christmas.
1 Christmas From The Backside, J. Ellsworth Kalas, © 200 by Abingdon Press, Nashville pg. 15-16.
Author's note: The inspiration for this 2-part series came from Kalas's book, Christmas From The Backside, previously mentioned in the footnote.