So I was thinking – if I weren’t from planet earth but I ended up here during the time of Advent, what would I think people were celebrating? Knowing that advent is “the arrival of a notable person, thing or event”, for whom or for what would I think people were preparing? Who are they preparing to receive? What notable event are they celebrating? These would be the questions that I, being from an alien civilization, would be asking myself. I would want to make sense of all the preparations taking place around me. After all, inquiring minds want to know what all the fuss is about.
I start my investigation by talking with children. I find them more forthright and they seem much more excited about Advent or Christmas or whatever this is, than the adults do. Actually, the adults seem a bit stressed if not downright distressed during this season and they are much too busy to take the time to answer my questions. But children will tell it like it is. And so they do.
I learn they are preparing for the arrival of a man in a red suite who travels in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. The sleigh is filled with toys and gifts for children all over the world who have been “good.” In preparation for this event the children tell me they sometimes write letters containing their requests to the red-suited man, named Santa Claus. Parents tell the children the chimney has been cleaned in anticipation of Santa’s arrival because that’s how Santa enters and exits each house, through the chimney. (this seems a bit peculiar to me but being from another planet, who am I to question Santa’s ways?)
Children are glad when their parents put Christmas lights on the roof and chimney of their house. This helps Santa find the house easily and land the sleigh on the clearly illuminated roof. The children tell me they also make cookies for Santa which they leave beside the fireplace along with a sandwich, milk and carrots for the reindeer. This is an important part of being prepared to receive Santa – figuring out what kind of cookies he likes and what kind of a sandwich they should leave for him. Another important part of being prepared for Santa’s arrival is putting up a Christmas tree and hanging up stockings for Santa to fill with gifts. Also, the children tell me they clean the house and make room, especially around the tree, for all the gifts they are expecting to get from this Santa Claus person.
I ask the children more about this red-suited Santa. How well do they really know him? Turns out, he comes once a year and he leaves the presents and fills the stockings and eats the food while they are sleeping, so they don’t really hang out with him. There are some books they read about him like “The Night Before Christmas”, but they don’t really have a relationship with this Santa guy, they just like him because he gives them gifts once a year.
At this point I began to wonder why this annual celebration is called Christmas. Seems to me it would more aptly be called Santamas. After all, everything seems to me to be done in preparation for Santa Claus’s annual arrival on the rooftops. He must be the notable person that everyone is preparing to receive. (except no one ever sees him, he’s in and out while everyone sleeps, and he says nothing except maybe the occasional “Ho! Ho! Ho!”) Santa’s midnight ride from rooftop to rooftop around the world must be the notable event that Advent celebrates. So I asked the children why the name Christmas? In response, they told me the most incredible story I have ever heard.
They told me Christmas is the celebration of a baby’s birthday. Now I was thinking, so many babies are born every day – why is the whole world remembering and celebrating one particular baby’s birth? Then I find out this baby was born two thousand twenty-two years ago and we are still celebrating His birthday, Christmas, to this day. Now I am really curious. There have been lots of famous people born over the years. We still know some of their names, but we don’t hold a big celebration of their birth every year with people taking the day off work and schools closed and all. Why this baby? Why Christmas?
Well it seems this baby, whose name is Jesus, is God’s only Son, the promised Messiah, the Christ child. Christmas, which literally means “Christ’s mass”, is the celebrating of the birth of this Christ child. Why remember? Why celebrate? Because the birth of Jesus is a miracle and the greatest gift God ever gave to mankind. The miracle is God coming to earth to live with human beings for a while. The miracle is why He came – to redeem those He had created for His own, to pay their price with His blood, to forgive their sins and to give them eternal life with Him.
“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
“But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)
“You (Jesus) are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slain, and with Your blood You purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:9)
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. . . . But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6,8)
As I observed firsthand the broken mess mankind has made of the world God gave them, it occurs to me that no one deserves any of these miraculous gifts that are God’s alone to give. But that’s the miracle of Christmas which continues to this day. God is still offering to me and to you, dear readers, the gift of His Son Jesus along with forgiveness, redemption, restoration and eternal life. This miracle of God sending us a Savior as promised, who is Jesus the Christ child, is really something to remember and to celebrate every day, not just once a year at Christmas.
So Jesus Christ is the notable person and His birth is the notable event that Advent and Christmas commemorate and celebrate every year. How did I miss this? The purpose of Advent is not to celebrate Santa’s arrival but to celebrate Jesus’s arrival here on earth. The miracle of Jesus coming to earth is far bigger than the surprise of toys under a tree on Christmas morning. Santa’s toys are temporal, God’s gift of Jesus is eternal!
As the children continued with the story of Jesus’s birth, which included shepherds, wise men, angels and a special star over the stable where baby Jesus lay in a manger, I began to understand why I was seeing images of a baby in a manger next to a man and a woman, with a donkey and sheep and shepherds and such, mixed in with snowmen and Santas and trees and reindeer on front lawns, in malls and in other places where Christmas decorations are displayed. It is actually the birth of this Jesus that Christmas calls us to remember and to celebrate.
All around me I can see that people are preparing for Santa’s arrival. I am wondering if they are also preparing for Jesus’s arrival? Jesus is coming again, but He doesn’t come every year like Santa. Jesus’s first Advent was missed by many. His second Advent, no one will miss.
“And the gory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:5)
People are busy preparing to receive Santa into their homes. (even though they will have no interaction with him) But what about Jesus? The Christmas carol “Joy to the World” says “let every heart prepare Him room, let earth receive her King!” Jesus Himself says,
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)
Sharing a meal – that’s personal. God’s gift of Jesus is a very personal gift to me and to you and to everyone who will open the door and let Him in so that He can take up residence in the place that they have prepared for Him. Make a way! Make room! For the King is coming!
“Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is He, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty – He is the King of glory.” (Psalm 24:7-10)
The King is coming! let every heart prepare Him room – let every home throw open the door and receive Him!
sincerely, Grace Day
2 thoughts on “an alien view of Advent”
I loved this! What a great comparison of the coming of Santa in our modern day society to the coming of the Christ child. Well said! May we all be reminded that Jesus is the real reason for the season.
Once again, I think of my grandson, Teo’s child-like wonder & faith. He has made room in His heart to receive and express joy unspeakable about both …excited for Santa and all the trimmings that come with decorating a Christmas tree, putting up Christmas lights, making gingerbread houses baking cookies, and the hope of a toy or two, yet, at the same time and in the same breath, always remembering the truth of who & what it is we are really celebrating and preparing, watching and waiting for – the birthday of Jesus, Christ the Lord. He understands that Santa is pretend fun and God and His Son are the real deal. I am learning a lot from my precious Teo this Advent season as together we prepare, wait & anticipate the Joy of the Advent Season.