Advent Reading Day 15 – Turkey Free Christmas
22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”, 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” Luke 2
Turkey. It seems to be the meat of choice that we savor for Christmas to go along with everything else as we feast together. There’s nothing quite like the taste and the smell of the Christmas turkey roasting, unless of course you are partial to ham or goose or some italian dish. As a matter of fact Christy and I were just reminiscing of how the smell takes her back to walking into her Grandma’s house and all the warm memories that go along with that. Amazing how those smells transport us back. But, here we miss out on turkey because it is far too expensive (about $70 for a 15 lb bird), but before you feel bad for us, we’ll still do just fine.
There are some traditions that are hard to imagine the holidays without. I think the turkey (or the meat of choice) becomes for many of us one of those traditions. Who can imagine a turkey free Christmas? And, now in the age of turkey fryers and gourmet cooking shows we only try to make a Christmas tradition all the better. I have heard of more family debates erupting over the changing of this staple meat of Christmas than whether Aunt Margaret should have married again or Johnny should have dyed his hair blue, however. Traditions die hard.
What strikes me is that for Jesus’ family their poverty meant that they had to celebrate one of the most important traditions within Judaism in a different way. The dedication of the first born child to The Lord was an important ritual for God fearing Jews. And, there were very specific rules to follow for this tradition to be kept properly. The ritual had to do with the dedication of Jesus, His circumcision and the ritual cleansing of Mary. Here is what The Law said in Leviticus 12“When the days for her purification for either a boy or a girl are complete, she will bring a yearling lamb for a Whole-Burnt-Offering and a pigeon or dove for an Absolution-Offering to the priest at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting…If she can’t afford a lamb, she can bring two doves or two pigeons, one for the Whole-Burnt-Offering and one for the Absolution-Offering. The priest will make atonement for her and she will be clean.” Jesus, The Lamb of God’s parents were too poor to bring forth the prescribed offering, so they brought the provisional offering. It seems that a lamb could not be afforded so they brought a pair of doves or two young pigeons for the offering. The Messiah…born in humility, simplicity, dare I say poverty? The One who took part in the creation of The World, but now as He enters human history is confined to not having the ultimate offering made on His behalf. But, isn’t that true of the whole of Jesus’ story? Everyone expected the most royal of Kings with pomp and circumstance, yet He comes in obscurity showing us a different kind of Kingdom. Everyone expected the King living in the Royal Palace, yet when The King came He had nowhere to lay his head at night. Upside down. Counter cultural. It is Befuddling and Perplexing that Jesus came in this utter humility.
I am challenged by how we as Jesus’ followers sometimes demand the best, yet Jesus’ parents did not have the means to provide the “best” for Him. Could it be that we are missing the point? Could it be that there should be a check in our spirits when we hear figures such as there being $450 Billion USD spent on celebrating Christmas in The United States alone? In case you are wondering that means $1,500 per capita gets spent on Christmas. Could there be something wrong with this picture? How did we go from Mary and Joseph making the “poor” offering on Jesus’ behalf when His time of dedication came to making Christmas a Huge Industry? Did we somehow lose worshipping Christ in the midst of Christmas? Could it be that we love the Industry of Christmas so much that we lose sight of the True Jesus in the midst of it all?
I know, I see the collective eye roll. I am not a Scrooge nor am I trying to suck all of the joy out of your Christmas celebrations. I am part of this problem, too, and deep down I am trying to see the true joy put back in. However, I do think that it is worth our collective reflection why and how we celebrate the coming of Jesus. I think it is worth us considering the pomp, circumstance, expense and utter extravagance we show in celebrating His birth which was surrounded by humbleness, obscurity, lack and anything but the best birthing place, baby crib, first visitors and dedication offering. God in His plan chose for Jesus’ coming to be marked in such ways. May His coming continue to challenge and transform us and the ways we celebrate His coming today.
Prayer: Jesus, this Christmas would you strip away anything that would keep us from centering on you. Would you help us to experience the simplicity, the humility, and the starkness of your coming while at the same time holding in our hearts and minds the glory, the celebration and the gratitude for all that your coming means. This Christmas help us to be mindful of You. Amen.