Confusing Holidays

I was sobered by a conversation that took place on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  A preschool teacher used a playful approach to get her students to think about that November holiday.  She said:“Now let me think. Thanksgiving. That’s the day when we think about all the stuff we have.  And how we want more things than anybody else has.  And how we don’t care about anybody but ourselves. And . . .”

 “No!” the children were starting to chorus! “No-o-o!”

 Then one little guy in the middle of the pack looked up and chirped, “That’s not Thanksgiving, Miss Michelle. That’s Christmas!

What are we teaching our children?  Yes, it will be easy to rant against the commercialization of Christmas, but what are our actions teaching?  Let’s take a few minutes to do a “searching moral inventory” in this area.  Have we covered greed with a thin veneer of religion?

I am convinced that the answer is not to ignore the season but to allow time in the presence of God to transform it.  Celebrate the birth of the Son of God, but consider doing it with more simplicity.  The one word that describes the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth was “ordinary.”  Rather than the romanticized version of the manger scene, my studied conviction is that someone in Bethlehem took that pregnant couple into their home and Jesus’ birth was just like all the other infants—he was born in a four-room house.

The only reason we assume he was born in a stable is the mention of him being laid in a manger and there having been no room for them in the inn.  Would it surprise you to learn that there were mangers in every four-room Jewish house during that period?  The central room was typically designed where animals would be brought inside overnight to protect them and so their body heat would help warm the family.  Between it and the two adjacent rooms there would be mangers.  If I am right, his birth was incredibly “ordinary.”

Whatever the locale, nothing about Jesus’ arrival encourages the extravagance that is too typical.  What would our children say to Miss Michelle?  Would they think she had confused Christmas and Thanksgiving?

John Kenneth King

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