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Christmas – When God Came Down to Throw Away Our Sneakers

December 21, 2011

     Ahhh, Christmas break! Time to leave all the pressure of tests and papers behind, pack up our dirty laundry and head home where many will spend time sleeping in, pounding down someone else’s food in large quantities and smiling lamely for the relatives as they ask how we like college. It’s the least we can do since we’re at their house largely to pound down their food. We’ll also touch base with old high school friends now from other colleges and wonder how they became such weirdos while we matured. Maybe we’ve been too preoccupied with trying to stay off academic probation to think about Christmas. Maybe our brains have melted down into “figgy pudding” from hearing “Holly Jolly, the Red Nosed Snowman Who Lives in a Marshmallow World Up On Our Housetop” seventeen times too many. Some students do get into it.

     If the real meaning of Christmas has slipped off the radar, it’s quite simple. The real meaning of Christmas is about sneakers. I especially remember one pair – black, low-cut fabric like the Boston Celtics wore. They carried me through both high school and college. The soles wore down to a nub and the fabric tore loose; nothing held the rest of the shoe to the remnant of a rubber sole but electrician’s tape. Mom repeatedly asked, begged and finally resorted to covert action to separate me from them. Give them up? I made some great saves to protect my babies. After graduating from college, I met the woman who became my wife. Things changed. On their first visit to our new apartment, Mom noticed my new sneakers. “Yeah, Gay said they were junky and I needed to get rid of them. So I did.” Mom knew another woman sat in the driver’s seat. Maybe she cried on the way home. When someone loves us, they can throw away our sneakers any time they want.

     Matthew 2:1-12 lays down some important cues from those who sought Jesus out. Wise men –  royal counsellors to kings and other high-ranking officials. They stood as the keenest intellectuals in almost every field of their day. They lived and breathed that rare combination of being both book and life smart. Their baloney detector had no off switch and always sat set on high. They often became jaded from seeing too many frauds, phonies and hypocrites addicted to wealth and power oppressing people to feed their own ego. Kings? Seem ’em. Seen one you’ve seen ’em all. Been there done that. The average king’s brain would make an echo in a thimble. Most either murdered their way or were born into the office. Then one night the stars they knew like the road to Grandma’s house looked different, one in particular. It arrested them; they couldn’t help but follow. The Star trumpeted the birth, not just of a king, but of a new kind of king, Someone royal from before the nanosecond of His conception and to the core of every gene. 

     They came to King Herod, not so much to pay respects but to get directions and finally came to Jesus. They did what jaded cynics never do left to themselves – they bowed to the ground and worshipped. Spontaneously, no prompts. When was the last time we did that? I rest my case. They left gifts. It was the thing to do when visiting kings and they had no idea what or who they would find at the end of the trip. They took away much more than they left. That made it easy to understand the dream warning about Herod. They’d just seen Someone Who’d redrawn the lines of ideas like majesty, righteousness, beauty, truth and love. They fade nameless into the fog of early gospel as Matthew tells it. They’d be fine with that. This new Name makes it feel good and right to let go of ourselves – and all the rags of the things that we think we need to make ourselves happy, to feel worth as a person and worth loving.

     God with us.  Jesus comes offering all of the beauty, truth, holiness, power and love that He is in exchange for our answer to one question. Jesus asks,”Can I throw away your sneakers – the shabby things we foolishly think we have to cling to no matter what?” When it’s love, they can throw away our sneakers. Jesus can throw away mine anytime He wants. Merry Christmas from geezeronthequad.


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