I was running one of my favorite early-morning routes and came across a Christmas decoration that caused me to think. So much for a few mindless miles to start the day. Close to the sidewalk, away from the other decorations was a manger. But in place of the baby, there was a cash box nestled in the straw. As with many things I see while running, it took a few steps for the sight to make sense. I wasn’t sure why, but I knew I wanted to capture the image.
The babe in the manger is cute and safe. Much safer than the King of Glory stepping out of heaven to take on human flesh, live as an example for us and then die sacrificially that we may be forgiven. I don’t know the real reason behind the display’s substitution, but two thoughts come to mind. The first is the commercialization of Christmas. Have we replaced the Hope of Christmas with a hope for Christmas? We have slowly and subtly exchanged celebrating Christmas for celebrating the holidays.
The holidays are safe, fun and inclusive. Christmas, not so much. It only makes sense that we should replace the Christ child with a box of cash. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” These are the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 6:21. Jesus has much to say about our priorities in this chapter. Are we celebrating all that money will buy rather than the coming Savior of the World?
I do enjoy Christmas. I enjoy gift-giving and being with family. I like to give a receive a “Merry Christmas” from a smiling face. Of course, the food and time away from the routine help to make Christmas special. I tend to focus more on the stuff we do rather than the true reason to celebrate. The second chapter of Luke records the birth of Christ. Shepherds are offered a first-look at the baby in the manger. After telling others they return glorifying and praising God for all they had seen. Mary treasured these things and pondered them in her heart.
Perhaps the box in the straw is symbolic of the treasure I have in Jesus. It’s not buried deep nor is it displayed in a secure, pristine palace with tightly controlled access. But the Treasure of Christmas came humbly to common people. We have received the invitation and our access has been granted. We can experience the treasure and ponder in our heart all that Christ means to us.
I don’t always treat Jesus as a treasure. As an athlete, I value performance and training to achieve a goal. I hang the evidence of accomplishment on my wall to remind myself and others of what I have done. I replay the experience in my mind and ponder future events. While I continue to swim, bike and run, I think more about the treasure that was given to us all that first Christmas. Where is your treasure?