A Dickens Christmas is about joy and singing and big family dinners and dashing to and fro giving and receiving, and caring for the poor and turkeys and frosty windows. It’s now about Christmas trees and open mouths singing carols in the snow with stars in the sky.
And now we hear that Starbucks has a mug stripped of those Dickens images of Christmas… and some are in a lather about the stripping away of Christmas from our culture.
I say the less Dickens the better. I’m not being a Scrooge here.
The first Christmas has these themes:
Israel’s long awaited Messiah has come. So it’s got to be Jesus as Messiah.
Israel as a land didn’t have snow. Or pretty mugs with sophisticated coffee. Or frosty windows and Christmas trees with presents.
The first Christmas meant a young woman, Mary, would carry the shame of being pregnant outside of marriage and she would be known then as someone not likely to be high on God’s list. Mary accepted this role. (See my The Real Mary.)
The first Christmas meant a young man, Joseph, would lose his reputation as a righteous man because he chose to marry a woman who got pregnant outside of his act in the marriage. His finance got pregnant, outside of marriage, and not with him. He chose to marry her and this landed him in trouble with some.
The first Christmas meant that their offspring — Yeshua, Jesus — would be classified in Jewish society as an illegitimate child. He could always be criticized for this supposed socially shameful position.
The first Christmas was celebrated by some Gentile astrologers who unlike many in the Land didn’t know who had been born. They offered gifts to a king to celebrate what God was doing. They escaped home.
Herod was so irritated by this news he slaughtered children in the vicinity. The young family — Joseph, Mary, and Jesus — were so threatened by Herod they had to escape the Land to Egypt and hide in order to begin their family in safety.
That’s the first Christmas.
Telling the world about Jesus as Messiah and family under threat is is not Starbuck’s job; it is the church’s mission to to be announcing this at Christmas. But it is not the church’s mission to tell the world a Dickens Christmas story. It is the church’s mission to tell the real story about Christmas, about a God who entered into the world in a socially shamed family in order to lift the socially shamed to the highest name ever. I can’t imagine Starbucks telling that story well.