I have a vivid memory of a conversation with my mom when I was four years old. I asked, "Can you really not take anything to heaven?" Mom said, "Nope. Not one thing." However, I'm more of a rule bender than a rule follower, so I decided I'd buck the system. Whenever it was time for me to go to heaven, I'd just grab my favorite tie-dye purse, packed with all of my favorite Barbies and accessories, and it would escalate with me. Simple.
There appears to be a long-standing materialism problem here. When I get to the gates, I will be holding up the line over this. Y'all will have diamond-encrusted crowns; mine will have a dash of Cubic Zirconia. But I don't think I'm alone on the materialism front, especially this time of year.
Our culture can be so consumed with things, so link-clicking and adding-to-cart, that we miss it. We miss the greatest gift ever offered to us in a season that is supposedly all about His birth—a birth that was anything but materialistic.
“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7
This gift arrived not clad in silk ribbon or red bows, but lying in a manger. He wasn’t donning hand-embroidered outfits or designer labels; He was wrapped in rags. There was no garland or greenery hung around the stable. There wasn’t even a Christmas tree. There was only Christ.
J. B. Phillips wrote, “What we are in fact celebrating is the awe-inspiring humility of God, and no amount of familiarity with the trappings of Christmas should ever blind us to its quiet but explosive significance… Amid the sparkle and the color and the music of the day’s celebration we do well to remember that God's insertion of himself into human history was achieved with an almost frightening quietness and humility."
Is it a bad thing to deck the halls? No, or else you can add that to the list of things I'll be holding up that pearly gate line for. Is it a sin to enjoy the season's festivities? Of course not. Is it, however, a real temptation to think that material things will fill our voids this season? Definitely.
The world loves to tell you that you need more. But our Savior, that baby boy who was wrapped in rags and placed in a manger, is our greatest need. This is a gift for today, but also great hope for tomorrow. Unlike the Frasier Fir in your living room, the garland around your mantle, or the gifts under your tree, this hope will not wilt, decay in the attic, break, go out of style, or not arrive by the promised delivery date.
For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18
This Advent, let’s shift our gaze from the trappings of materialism to the most beautiful gift of Christmas: that humble first Advent and the hope that He has not only come, but He is surely coming again.