Christmas Ruins Lives

December 9, 2011

On Wednesday, we talked about how a bunch of people think they can’t “afford” Christmas.

“Poo!” said I!  We’re just a bunch of whiners addicted to self pity.

Have you ever thought about what the first Christmas really cost?  No, not the gold and frankincense.  Though, if I got a box of smelly myrrh paste, I’m not sure I’d be too excited, no matter the cost.

I mean really.  Have you thought about this?  Christmas ruins lives.  Has been for a couple thousand years.  If you don’t believe me, then pour yourself a glass of eggnog and read my possibly somewhat completely irreverent telling of the Christmas story.

Sixteen and Pregnant

The story of Christmas is a story of an unplanned pregnancy and an unwed teenage mother.

When you went to your high school guidance counselor to talk about what you wanted to be, did anyone pick “unwed teenage mother?”

No.

That’s because breastfeeding an infant at a school dance is probably the last thing anyone wants to do.  If you are thinking of this career track, let me fill you in.  You will probably not finish high school, which qualifies you to earn exactly $7.25 an hour at menial, soul-crushing work.  This means you will make $15,000 a year (if you can manage to work full time), all of which you will spend on diapers…unless you can exploit your fetus to get on an MTV reality show.

Mary sure didn’t pick “unwed teen mom” with her guidance counselor.  She had her act together.  But God showed up and wrecked her plans.  And if you think $7.25 an hour is bad, Mary’s fiance could’ve had her stoned to death.  No one wanted to be an unwed teen mom back then.

Psyched Up for the Wedding Night

Then there’s Joseph who’s worked his butt off for years to pay a dowry so he can marry this girl.  And what happens?  He pays up, takes his fiance and starts ordering wedding invitations.  After all the work and the engagement and the wedding plans that he can’t wait to get through, it will all pay off soon.

And then, Mary tells Joseph that after he’s gone to all this trouble, they’re going to have a baby and he didn’t even get to have the fun of making said baby.  God swooped in so there would be no chance of Joseph getting what he had been waiting for.  All I can say is that it’s probably a good thing it was Joseph and not me, because I would declare that to be the rip-off of a lifetime.

Also, it’s a good thing those guys showed up with the expensive perfume that Joseph could hock at the bazaar, because there is no other record of God sending child support payments.  Again, probably good that it was Joseph and not me, because I’d probably be a tad peeved that the Creator of the universe with infinite resources at his disposal was leaving me, a carpenter just scraping by, to raise his kid.  And we all know the kid can take rocks (which we have a million of) and turn them into bread.  But does he ever? Noooo.  That would make Joseph’s life just too easy.

Christmas Massacre

And if becoming a teen mom, or raising God’s baby for him wasn’t bad enough, Christmas ruined a whole lot more lives.

People have motivated by Jesus to kill each other long before the Crusades.  Sweet little eight pound, six ounce newborn baby Jesus,  just watching his Baby Einstein development videos, learning about shapes and colors, who doesn’t even know anything, yet he’s still omnipotent, yes that baby Jesus inspired a genocide before he could talk.

That’s a pretty ghastly turn of events.  But that’s what king Herod wanted.  When we’re Christmas shopping and making out hard and fast under some plant in our doorways, we don’t think about the king who had a bunch of toddlers killed.

When Jesus shows up, he ruins plans.  He did it all his life.  He did it before he was born.  Maybe he wants to ruin some of your plans.  After all, even for all the grief it caused, Christmas seems to have worked out for the world, right?

28 responses to Christmas Ruins Lives

  1. Hi Matt,

    We’re on the same wave length here this morning.

    I just posted a video–staring me, naturally–retelling the Christmas story on my blog. It’s called “Christmas In A Little Tin Box” and includes one of the funniest Christmas cartoons I’ve ever seen. I had a lot of fun staring in this short movie; Christmas didn’t ruin my life at all…

    Although, as the father of six children, I have to say that I feel King Herod is a much maligned man.

    John

  2. Thanks for this retelling of the Christmas story. The more I read the Bible, the more I’m convinced that it should usually leave me uncomfortable, challenged, or completely wrecked. At least, that’s what happened to the people we read about!

  3. Hilarious! I’m sharing this! :)

  4. Great angle, Matt!

    Yes, Jesus does wreck many of our plans. He does it because He loves us and knows that oftentimes the direction we are headed in is very dangerous. That’s why He leaves the 99 to come looking for the one…you and I.

    But He ives us a new life, doesn’t He? An authentic life rooted in something truly good…Himself.

    And He does this for us even when we continually wander off in search of more ‘interesting’ pursuits.

  5. This hit me yesterday as well. I may be blogging about this same topic–slightly different take–this morning. I’m still coming to grips with the reality that Jesus didn’t come to make me comfortable. It must be the eggnog, I get stuck in this idea that Christmas is about pleasant times and the easy life…

    ~Luke

  6. You do understand, of course, that Joseph legally adopted Jesus and didn’t consider him someone else’s kid? The royal line of David came through Joseph. Without the legal adoption, Jesus was not the heir to David’s throne. He wasn’t just someone else’s brat to raise. Joseph manned up and became his father. Small difference.

  7. Great blog, Matt. I am enjoying my Vicodin post surgery. Merry Christmas.

  8. I appreciate your perspective and this point of view needs to be expressed. I would like for your point to be made a bit more clearly. ie How did Christmas ruin your life? Something personal.

    I would like to have seen your acknowledgement of God’s greater plans for our lives in your original blog post, where it will be seen by the greatest number of people.

    I think your point of view is too cynical and casual readers passing by may see you as a shock value pastor who lives on the cusp of edgy material.

    Just to be clear, I don’t see you that way and I feel those people give believers a bad reputation.

    • I’m on the cusp of edgy? That’d be neat. No one has said that about me before. Well you put up a good question. I guess Christmas ruins my plans every year. I plan to stay home and be anti social. Jesus compels me to show his love to people I don’t want to be around, but I have to see them at the holidays. I whine about this every year.

  9. I never really thought about the unwed teenage mother until we had two teenage daughters of our own. Interesting that no mention is made of Mary’s family. Makes me wonder if they were supportive, or if they disowned her.

  10. Rebecca Gallaway December 9, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    Wow. All that retelling did was prove bitterness in your own life. It showed a little tad bit of lonliness and quite a bit of hatred toward your own unexciting days. Fyi. Gods got the bigger picture. Jesus didn’t come to make lifecomfortable. I think that’s the only truth u spoke. He came so that in life discomfort, we can experience the unexplainable love joy peace and hope that people like u do not have. He never ever promised life to be easy. Even mary knew he wasn’t coming just to “disrupt” hers and josephs life. If u read what she says in luke 1:46-55? She’s shouting a battle cry! She knows that she is the only human on the planet that gets the privalidge of carrying and raising the Man who will save not just her or her generation…but the whole world and evryone who will ever live in it! In all my bitchyness and lies I’ve ever told and people I’ve ever hurt or family I’ve ever burned or freinds I’ve ever blown off or all the crap I’ve ever done! I get to go to heaven afteri die to spend eternity with my Saviour because of her! Are u kidding?! God used her to bring a life into this world that would change the lives of ANYONE who will accept Him! Has it ever occured to u that. Raising a kid no matter the age u r is not really all that hard? Its just tiring lol. So to make an already long point short. God works ALL things out for the GOOD of those who LOVE Him and are called a,cording to His purpose. And…He came so that we might have life…life abundant. So the only way Christmas can EVER be ruined, is if u ruin it yourself by letting your circumstances get the best of u. Be a scruge if u so choose. But DO NOT blame it on Jesus.

    • Hi Rebecca,

      I think the point that he was trying to make is that Christmas isn’t about presents, and shows, and getting what you want. It’s about Jesus coming and living with us in our messed up world with sin and prejudices, and massacres and such, just to save us from it. He was attempting to help people look at it from a different perspective, about how REAL of a situation it was for Mary and Joseph. Sometimes we just don’t get what we think we want… but God has another plan in store that’s even better! Considering all of the struggles that this situation put Mary and Joseph through, we can now look at them as role models for how God wants us to trust Him.

      BUT, I can totally see how you could read it as you did. I’ve been reading this blog for a long time, so I understand what Matt’s viewpoints are, and I think he just missed out at the end of this post by explaining what you did in your comment. It’s true. God does work all things out for the good of those who love Him, and Christmas was certainly the greatest gift of all.

    • What? What untruth did I write?
      You know, normally I welcome contrary opinions, but when the first comment someone makes here is accusing me of “bitterness,” I say whatever. Everything you said was exactly the point I was making – Jesus didn’t come to make us comfortable. He came to disrupt plans. And when we think we can’t “afford” Christmas, let’s think about what Christmas really cost.

      • Jesus does ruin plans. I can attest to that! But I wish you had mentioned at the end that even though Jesus ruins our plans and makes stuff confusing, He has a bigger picture that’s far more important than our narrow mindedness. Thank goodness God messed up my plans! He had a much better one worked out, that I would never have thought up. Likewise, Jesus messed up Mary and Joseph’s plans, but aren’t you glad that He did? :)

  11. It was interesting to read your take on Mary and Joseph, because I think that questioning this story is the first step that a lot of (former Christian) atheists took. The Torah commands that if a woman is found to be not a virgin on her wedding night, the town must stone her to death, as you acknowledge. (Other readers: it’s in Deuteronomy 22, if you’re curious.) So here’s Mary, engaged to be married, and suddenly pregnant … what is she going to say? “Sorry Joe, I cheated on you, guess you might as well round up all the men in our city to murder me now.” That’s not going to end well. Maybe Mary concocted the first version of the Jesus myth, and taught it to her son as she raised him…

    This is all a hypothetical, of course, and there’s no particular evidence saying that this must be what happened in this specific case. But we have plenty of evidence of women who find themselves unintentionally pregnant lying about who the father is in order to preserve their reputation. (See: most daytime talk shows.) I think that makes it more likely than that God magically impregnated a woman with his son, who was also himself — a phenomenon we haven’t observed in any other context.

    I’m curious as to your take on this, since you seem to be on board with most of the premises but obviously not also the conclusion.

    • Yes, that’s an interesting point. The stakes were certainly high enough that Mary may have been tempted to protect herself.

      For me, I have to start at the end of Jesus’ story – how he convinced so many people, both educated and not, of who he was. There were educated and intelligent people among his followers. To me, the disciples were not gullible men. In fact, at every turn, they *don’t* believe Jesus. Yet, each of them will die for that man. In our times, we’ve seen so many conspiracy theories that blow up. That’s the one common thread about conspiracy theories – someone always talks. But all of those men went to horrible deaths, still convinced and saying that Jesus was God.

  12. Linking to you right now.

  13. “When Jesus shows up, he ruins plans.”

    Love that line. So true. So cool.

  14. Jesus ruins plans or rebuilds them?

    It’s like a renovation reality show for your soul….you were going to settle for Formica counters and vinyl flooring, and then Jesus swoops in and says, “No! No! It’s going to be much greater than what you imagine.”

    He was a carpenter, right? :)

  15. At 16 years old I actually was pregnant and unwed. Preachers have been harping on this point for quite a while now. Enough already. Christmas has not ruined my life, nor do I think it ruined the lives of those most intimately involved in Christ’s birth.

    Read Mary’s song in Luke again. Christmas only ruins the lives of people whose souls do not magnify God.

    • A couple of questions: How does Christmas ruin the lives of people who don’t magnify God?

      And, I don’t think you can compare your being 16 and pregnant to Mary becoming 16 and pregnant. She had plans for her life and made decisions that were conducive to those plans. God intervened. I’m sure you’re glad now that you have your children, but I have to believe you must have had plans that had to change because of decisions you made that resulted in your pregnancy.

      Also, and perhaps I should’ve stated this more clearly, though the events of Christmas *appeared* to ruin Mary and Joseph’s lives at first, it turned out that it only ruined their plans. But like I said at the end, it worked out.

  16. “When Jesus shows up, he ruins plans.” AMEN. Thanks for this, Matt. This was thoughtful and honest. Appreciate your sharing it. I’m learning a lot about how we need to deconstruct our cultural conception of Christmas to fully understand and appreciate it.