At Christmas time each year I often do my daily devotionals at the local mall. I get there early before things open up and people arrive. I usually read from a few favorite devotional books, generic like Streams in the Desert, sales sovaldi write a bit in my journal, sale and study the Scripture. Then I walk the mall, pretty much alone, praying and reciting to myself selected passages of the Bible. In this year’s reading, I have been going over the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. And what a difference to envision the manger scene and its emphasis 2000 years ago, and then look at the mall and what it highlights about Christmas today. Here is how I compared the two as I thought through my devotional walk the other day.
The mall is filled with thousands of sparkling lights drawing potential customers to its various stores and sales. The manger had just one light, that of a miraculous star lighting up the birthplace of Jesus, the light and life of everyone who believes.
All things came into being through Jesus, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.
At each mall store there is a multitude and variety of presents to buy, so others might be made joyous and happy on Christmas morning. At the manger, there was the presence of God, which could make all who believed joyous and happy for a life time.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Many mall stores offer convincing rebates, if only you would buy their products. The manger scene promised redemption, the price God paid for you (Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross) to get you back into His kingdom.
We who believe are justified as a gift by God’s grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.
Romans 3:24 (rvk)
Gift cards/Heavenly gift
Gift cards seem to be a big item at some stores, designated for those who just can’t make up their minds about what to buy. The manger spoke of the heavenly gift of Jesus, the Son of God, for those who had made up their minds about their futures.
Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
John 4: 10
Of course at the mall there are sales of all kinds; some offering 10%, 20%, and even up to 50% off, if only you would buy now. But with the manger there was 100% off for everyone who believed, that is 100% off of anything you had done that would have kept you out of heaven and God’s kingdom.
And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Latest and greatest/Forever
Many of the more modern stores at the mall advertise the latest and greatest things on the market, particularly clothing stores. All of which will go out of style in a year or so
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. The manger revealed One sent to save mankind; One who could never be replaced, or go out of vogue in relation to man’s salvation and return to God. Therefore, to put on Jesus, so to speak, as you would the latest and greatest piece of clothing, is like putting on a garment that will last and be cool forever.
For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven.
2 Corinthians 5:1-2
Needless to say some of the store displays drew a big wow, as you passed by. Some were computer generated, and others were just a terrific piece of artistic handiwork. But at the manger nothing could compare to the myriad of angels ushering in the Christ child at His birth. Their concert of voices must have been like a thousand choirs singing the Hallelujah chorus all at once. What a wonder that must have been. I wish I could have been there. Perhaps they will do a command performance again once we are all in heaven together. I am personally making a request for this right now as I write!
And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.
Bargain seekers/Wise men
When I end my devotional walk at the mall each day, I notice that many bargain seekers often show up early to get the best deals. Some stores in order to get customers offer cut-rate prices on certain items during the first hours of operation. These bargain seekers are there to take full advantage of this. The manger scene also had its own bargain hunters in a sense. They were the wise men who traveled a great distance to witness the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world. By doing so, they got the bargain of a lifetime, to see the Son of God face to face, and receive salvation. And although we do not have a specific record of these men after this time, we do know that the Gospel of Christ inexplicably came to the East from where these men hailed. They were likely the early evangelists who did this work for God, fulfilling yet another purpose in their lives other than bringing their three valued gifts to Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”
Finally as I walked through the mall for the last time this week, Santa was everywhere to be seen, but Jesus and His birth were hardly to be found. What’s amazing about this is that Santa’s origin (St Nicholas) is the story of a believing priest who had the gift of giving, particularly at Christmas time with children. It’s too bad that our society has substituted Santa for Christ as the centerpiece. I am sure St Nicholas would be upset at this to say the least. But that is the way we are in America right now, which hopefully God will correct in His own way and timing. Unfortunately, this may mean a lot of allowed hardship for us as a nation.
But as giving as St Nicholas was, or as giving as each of us may be to one other on Christmas morning, the manger speaks of the giver of all givers, Jesus. For it was He who gave up His own life so we could be one with God, inheritors of heaven, and free from our often selfish and sinful lives.
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
To remember Christmas for what it truly means, take your family on a walk through a mall during Christmas. It can be either an outside or inside one, which ever works best for you family. Make your own comparisons as I have done. Do them as you walk together, and then when you get home write all that you’ve discussed on some Christmas paper. Wrap this up as a Christmas present to be opened, not this year, but next year. When you open it, make sure it’s done early, before Christmas day arrives, so you’ll always remember that Christmas is best represented by a manger, not a mall.