“We don’t have to check our pain at the door of Christmas.
We can bring it to the One who knows that the manger leads to the cross.'”~ Holley Gerth
A few nights ago, I got to stand next to the gigantic Christmas tree lit up in the center of downtown San Francisco, in famous Union Square. The grandparents had flown in from the Northwest for a visit, so Hubby and I took advantage of the opportunity and got a “weekend pass”.
It was the first time in three years I was going to deviate from the nightly bedtime chaos routine, so I was beyond ecstatic to roam the streets in the evening like a wanderlust tourist.
Strolling under the holiday lights, I noticed the marketing campaigns blown up in gargantuan size across billboards and banners. With each wreath or nostalgic winter scene displayed, messages were being broadcast.
See if you recognize these marketing slogans —
“12 Days of Sharing”
You’d think they were lifted out of sermons from church. No, these are the cheerful holiday voices greeting us from Starbuck’s, Macy’s, and Pottery Barn. They figure if we can feel better about ourselves — that we are wonderful people giving to others — we’d enjoy shopping more and get into an optimistic, feel good version of ourselves.
The marketing of the holidays has been kicked up a notch.
Traditional marketing of products has been replaced by the marketing of an experience.
It’s not about a better shopping experience. Advertisers are offering us s a shinier image of ourselves — a better experience of us in the holiday season.
Where’s The Babe?
I’ve been praying this month for Unwrapping Jesus moments, asking to be placed inside the real Christmas Story. Surrounded by breathtaking decorations and squealing teenagers speeding around the open-air skating rink, I felt a tinge of melancholy.
There was all this celebration, but not a word or image of The Babe, angels with trumpets or the used-to-be catch phrase, Peace on Earth.
What a great big party everyone is having, decked out and buying gifts. But, who is the party for? It feels like a messed up bizzaro world, where everyone’s been invited to a big birthday bash — except the person of the hour.
Jesus has been disinvited by the world to His own celebration.
Christmas Version of Me?
What’s missing from all the holiday cheer?
The un-marketing of joy.
If something needs to be marketed, it’s not a gift. It’s a product.
Jesus is not a product. Jesus was sent as a Gift.
As I made my way through the city with multi-million dollar advertisements visually executed in full-throttle, I wondered —
Am I bringing a marketed version of myself into Christmas?
There is pressure, especially among believers, to bring a holiday version of ourselves, in order to get into the spirit of Christmas.
We forget Someone has joined us in our humanity. At the great cost of the cross, Jesus came to bring us the joy of knowing He is near us, when others are far.
God orchestrated that very first Christmas by inviting everyday people to come, as they are. From shepherds to wise men of the day (maybe philosophers or astronomers?), they came as they were. Not the religious scribes who knew it all or the Pharisees who celebrated all the traditions right.
Jesus invites us to draw near to Him the same way today. God invites us to come and receive Him, as we are.
Will I unmask myself and simply come without marketing myself for the season?
If we want to celebrate Jesus as God’s life changing gift, we will bring our imperfect hopes and losses to Him.
God isn’t trying to market Jesus to us. He came to restore us to our rightful place — in the heart of His Son.
God is saying it without banners or placards —
Peace on Earth. Goodwill to men.
Immanuel. I am here.
Come see me. As you are.
Others loudly market cheer, while the simplicity of Jesus is God’s Gift to us.
What is holding your heart back in this season?
It might be the very thing that can draw you closer to Jesus, as we let Him into that space.
If Christmas time is hard this year, take a moment to read The True Cost and Joy Of Christmas, a inspiring post written by my friend, Holley Gerth. The post is published over at Christmas Change, a site sharing ways to change Christmas as a return to God’s heart in this season.
As you browse many wonderful Christmas posts in the coming weeks, remember to resist the sway to feel pressured by how Christmas is happening for others. Your journey with Christ is just as valuable — no matter how different it looks — because it is pointing straight to Bethlehem in you.
In fact, just read any one of the 28 Unwrapping Jesus posts written by the community (scroll down to the end of Thursday’s post here). You’ll find encouragement by being part of a larger spiritual community, as we make our way in the Christmas story, retold in me and you.
Today's post is part of a month long series, Unwrapping Jesus. Join in the challenge to celebrate simplicity, in hopes of unwrapping the true Christmas story in our today. Subscribe now via email (click here) or RSS (click here).