SIDNEY — A favorite question I ask to my members or anyone for that matter when discussing Bible related events or questions is, “who cares?” The “who cares” movement has come to symbolize our culture and our world. Who cares how much it costs; as long as it makes me happy. Who cares who gets hurt; as long as I come out on top. Who cares what is right or what is wrong as long as we mind our own business we can all just coexist. When applied to any sort of theological conversation or even a baseline biblical history question, “who cares” can always be the answer. Who cares that a child was born 2000 years ago in a manger in Bethlehem? Who cares that prophets and angels alike foretold his birth? Who cares about Christmas? Who cares about Christ and His birth? Especially when this story is just one of many told throughout the months preceding Dec. 24 and 25.
Starting in November we begin to see and hear the proverbial Christmas bells ringing. And by the time the end of December rolls around we will have watched about 300 different variations of a Christmas story told. From Dicken’s A Christmas Carol to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” Whether church affiliated or not, the magic of Christmas always takes us. When adults can become children again and relive those days long gone. It doesn’t matter that no one knows what chestnuts are and the only bells we care to hear are the ones ringing on the Clydesdales of Budweiser.
But Christianity is a story. We cannot dismiss it as anything less. When it comes to the “Christmas Season” that story might be relegated to back corner shelf at Walmart as to not offend anyone, by name it’s still central to our “Holiday,” meaning “Holy Day,” celebrations. While the Birth of Christ is such a story it’s more than a retelling of “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer”. The nativity accounts are real accounts. They took place in history during the time recorded. When we try to strip away the miraculous from the story we do ourselves a disservice. Stories have been and always will be a driving force for humanity. We love them. And the amazing thing about the Birth of Christ is that we are truly present in that story. We cannot separate ourselves from the march to Bethlehem. We cannot remove ourselves from the gawking foreigners and poor shepherds shivering in the cold.
Of course this has always been the case. Ever since the Church began to celebrate the festival of Christmas it has sought to insert everyone into the story of Christ’s birth. In the 4th Century Ambrose of Milan penned a hymn still sung in our churches today, titled “Savior of the Nations Come” Its message is the answer to the “who cares” question.
“For you are the Father’s Son
Who in flesh the victory won
By your mighty power make whole
All our ills of flesh and soul”
Lutheran Service Book 332 St. 6
The answer to the “who cares about the birth of Christ” question is that God does. Not about a story, but about each and every one of us. The story of Christmas outside the rest of the Biblical narrative is useless. We need not only the story of Christmas, we need the story of the exiled people of God awaiting their king in Advent. We need the story of a child Jesus who, though he was God incarnate, was forced to flee for his life to escape the evil hordes of King Herod’s baby killing death squads. We need the story of an adult Jesus who was persecuted and taunted his entire life. We need the story of Christ hung on a cross. We need the story of an empty tomb. You cannot, must not, remove the rest of these pieces from the nativity. Because, what matters most in this birth of Christ story is not an infant swaddled in rags but a humanity wrapped in sinfulness whose place was taken by that baby wrapped in rags.
More important than the birth of Christ is the reason that Christ was born. It’s the question asked of man since the fall in the Garden of Eden: who cares about man and his problems? God does. And Christmas is the beginning of that answer. It’s when God becomes man, as his name Emmanuel (God with us) proclaims. A God who walked the earth. Who underwent the trials and tribulations we all undergo. He was the God-Man who wept when his friends died. He was the God-Man who laughed when children played. He was the one who felt scared, overwhelmed, stressed. The reason the Birth of Christ still matters is because you still matter. To a God willing to be born, live, die, and rise again.
So when Dec. 24 comes along this year, find yourself placed into the story once again. You might not be able to sit up front in the churches you attend where Christmas pageants are full of smiling or slightly annoyed children. Nevertheless you are part of that story. A better story than “A Night before Christmas.” A more important story than “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” The birth of a baby in a manger is the story of how God still cares for you.
Merry Christmas. May God be with us this Advent, Christmas, and all seasons, as He has promised to be.
The writer is the sole pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Sidney, Ohio. He has served his congregation nearly three years. He lives in Anna with his wife of 10 years and their three children. He graduated for Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne where he received his Masters of Divinity. His hobbies outside of ministry work include hunting, fishing, and spending time with his family.