Often, Christians rail against the commercialization of Christmas. This time of year (not to mention earlier and earlier every year, it seems), everywhere you turn, there are reminders of an invitations to Christmas. Kind of.
Nearly every store has some kind of display, no matter what kind of store it is. Even drive-thru windows are decked out in fake snow and candy cane wrapping. Walk through the streets of downtown, and you'll see wreaths around the light poles and ornaments on the official city lawn. Walk around the block a little way, and you'll see them on houses.
Usually, there's some kind of Christmas music playing over the intercom system, some chorus of Jingle Bells always to be heard somewhere. The sounds of the season have become the muzak of elevators, so common that we hardly even hear it any more, except, of course, to be annoyed from time to time by that which is played too often (or isn't any good to begin with).
Yes, everywhere, our world is preparing for Christmas. But here's the strange part:
Not everywhere will they celebrate it.
That store, for example, that's had its trees up since September, won't close for even an hour on Christmas. The only recognition they'll have that it's truly a holiday is that they'll have to pay their employees a little extra for working on it. For them, business goes on as usual; the busyness was just a distraction, a decoy, a ruse.
The drive-thru with candy cane wrapping taped around its windows? It will be open, too. No magic of Christmas inside there; just the same-old smell of french fry grease and burgers on the grill, with the occasional spill of a drink or drop a napkin. It's business as usual; the busyness was just noise.
You see, the world, for all its busyness, is still about business, and business as usual. It wants to suck you in, to sucker you in, to make you believe that they're just as into the season as you are, but the truth is that in most places in our 24/7/365 world, the holiday will pass just like any other day, and by the end of it, the only way you'll know it's over will be that the little bit that's left gets moved to the clearance corner to make room for the new things. Ironically, by our calendar, love - because Valentine's Day is only two months away. (That's enough for its own post, but we'll leave it here for now.)
But we're not the only world to miss Christmas. We're not the only time and place to have it pass by almost unnoticed. To get wrapped up in this part or that part of it and still not understand or embrace the fullness of what is happening.
For this second week of Advent, we're going to make a quick round through the places in the Christmas story. Each of these places had a piece of the story, but they missed it all for their busyness and distraction. And there's much that we can learn from them in understanding what exactly was going on there.