December 26: Christmas in Mecca

LUKE 2:8–14

PSALM 96:1–10 | Sing a new song to the Lord!
Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!
Sing to the Lord; praise his name.
Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.
Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.
Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.
Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!
He is to be feared above all gods.
The gods of other nations are mere idols,
but the Lord made the heavens!
Honor and majesty surround him;
strength and beauty fill his sanctuary.
O nations of the world, recognize the Lord;
recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong.
Give to the Lord the glory he deserves!
Bring your offering and come into his courts.
Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor.
Let all the earth tremble before him.
Tell all the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
The world stands firm and cannot be shaken.
He will judge all peoples fairly.

Consider This

Several years ago, my family traveled on Christmas Eve to Amman, Jordan, for a cousin’s wedding on the day after Christmas. We all arrived okay, but my mom’s luggage went to Rome. So we spent Christmas Day at the Mecca Mall in Amman getting new clothes for my mom.

Mecca Mall was just like any mall in suburban Dallas, with crowded stores during the holidays . . . especially because there were two holidays. That year, the Muslim celebration of Eid was the same week as Christmas, and Mecca Mall was decked out for the seasons. In the middle of the mall was a giant Eid display, complete with a huge replica Quran open to a significant verse hanging over a replica mosque set at the night of the new moon, surrounded by hanging strands of lights and fake lambs signifying the sacrifice for the feast.

And right next to all that was a giant Christmas tree, with a big star on top and lots of presents underneath, with a few plastic reindeer pulling a replica Santa sled up into the air.

All around the mall were signs in English and Arabic that read, “Share the joy of Eid and Christmas celebrations,” and in the background I could make out “Jingle Bells” and “Silent Night” in Arabic playing over the mall speakers.

Here I was, in a majority Muslim country, and the Mecca Mall was wishing me a “Merry Christmas.” To be honest, it confused all my notions of the so-called “War on Christmas” and all the cultural, political, and even spiritual emphases we place on it.

And then it made me wonder, What story are we really telling in all this? In America we decry the idol of consumerism at Christmas, while at the same time arguing about how much of Jesus should be wrapped up in what the salesperson says to us. And here I couldn’t tell the difference between Mecca Mall and the Mall of America.

So what’s the deal? As I said previously, I believe the whole “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays” skirmish is a smokescreen used by the enemy to distract us from what’s really important. I believe one of the reasons we lose sight of the story we’re supposed to be telling is because we miss that Christmas is a season, not a day (think “The Twelve Days of Christmas”).

In fact, most of the Christmas stories we sing about during Advent happen after Jesus is born: angels and shepherds and rulers and killings and foreign visitors. What do those stories mean for us as followers of this newborn king? And what do they mean for a world of gods and idols?

Today is not the “day after Christmas.” Today is the second day of Christmas. Just like Advent, we need a Christmas season, because the incarnation and its implications for the nations can’t be fathomed in one day. In the birth of Christ, there are cultural, political, and spiritual stories at play that affect the whole world. We need to know these stories, and then tell them well . . . whether it’s at Mecca Mall or the Mall of America.

So come, let us adore him.