A number of years ago, Gap brand stores – Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic—decided not to advertise their end-of-year sales with the term “Christmas.” Instead they chose the more generic term “holiday” so as not to offend those of non-Christian faiths, or atheists in general. But Gap is not alone in this decision. Last Christmas other companies also took a similar course of action, dismissing “Christmas” in favor of an innocuous expression which would not offend non-Christians. To the great harm of our nation, many commercial interests continue to push the Christian faith to the margins of our society, away from the heartbeat of our society.
In 2003, Judge Roy Moore was dismissed from the Supreme Court of Alabama because of his determination to allow a monument of the Ten Commandments to be viewed at his court room. I was among those who went to Birmingham in support of Judge Moore when, only a few years earlier, he was challenged for his resolve to place another display of the Ten Commandments in a lesser court which he occupied at the time. Brazenly, the Governor of Alabama stood with Judge Moore and threatened to defend the Judge even to the extent of calling out National Guard troops. But despite pledges of support for Moore by those who succeeded the Governor, the Judge was betrayed by the saber rattling of a liberal judiciary, and the truth of America’s history and the faith which birthed our nation were given no room.
At the beginning of the fourth century, a Christian pastor in Myra (a city in modern-day Turkey) was imprisoned under the reign of Roman Emperor Diocletian. Because he had been so young when he assumed the leadership role of his local church, he was called the “Boy Bishop.” Though he never married, he was deeply loved by the children and youth of his church in Myra. His labor of love for the Church of Christi n Myra was legendary, and when he passed away in 343, his famed spread far and wide. Many half truths arose around this faithful pastor, obscuring the real man and his message of faith in the Babe of Bethlehem. So highly was he esteemed that the day on which he died, December 6, began to rival the traditional date for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, December 25. Many found it easier to worship the fabled memory of a man rather than the Messiah of the manger. That pastor was St. Nicholas, or following the terminology of the Dutch, Sint Nikolaas–the real Santa Claus.
In our busy world, many allow themselves to marginalize the Messiah in the same way that the friends and foes of Christ do. They are too busy to find the time for personal and family devotions–and the Messiah of the manger is marginalized. Sunday becomes another day for work or leisure, rather than a day of worship–and the Babe of Bethlehem is pushed to the fringe of life. A new vehicle is required, or so we think, and our ability to contribute to the ministry of the local church is diminished or eliminated–and the cause of Christ is weakened in our community.
In these, and so many more ways, it is easy to give Jesus little or no place–“no room in the inn.” Many of the reasons appear quite satisfactory to us as the inn keeper’s reasons did to him. But Christ came to the humble and inconspicuous who are willing–not merely once a year or once in a while–but who are willing continually to give him a place of prominence in their lives.
In commerce, let us ask God to once again give us J. C. Pennys who will not relegate the Babe of Bethlehem to the inconspicuous places of their lives, but who give him a place of priority in day-to-day living. Give us Truett Cathys (the founder of Chick-fil-A) and Sam Waltons (founder of Wal-mart) who say Sunday is the Lord’s Day–a day to be reminded of our duty to the eternal God and for that reason commerce must stop. In politics, let us pray that God will raise up young men and women who, like the Father of Our Nation, George Washington, realize that our nation will not stand when the message of Jesus Christ is pushed from state houses, congress, and the judiciary of our nation. In the ordinary places of life, give us moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, and people in every position of life who will not relegate the Babe of Bethlehem to an obscure manger, but will give him the throne of their lives. As a new year breaks upon us, I would like to invite you to give him the throne of your life, and not a crude and obscure place to rest. Though once a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, he is the Sovereign of the universe and deserves that place of priority.