In 2005, when honor was poured on President Bush at his inauguration, the press demanded to know why the extravagance wasn't scaled back and the money given to the poor. Now, in a time of greater economic trouble, they joyfully welcome the even more extravagant inaugural expense for Barack Obama. The key difference between the two situations--the difference that makes this new expense not only tolerable to the press, but eagerly anticipated--is not difficult to discern: They love Barack Obama, they don't love George Bush.
It's an age-old story you'll surely recognize from the gospels. When Mary, out of her love, poured extremely expensive perfume over Jesus, Judas was indignant about the "misuse" of funds. But his objection against the use of the money was more a reflection of his lack of love for Jesus than a sign of his love for the poor. As even the press has discovered, celebrations are valuable in and of themselves when you love the person or thing you're celebrating. But they're difficult to understand and hard to justify when you don't.
The condition of our hearts clearly affects the way we celebrate people. This brings me to the serious subject of Christmas. A few weeks ago, I overheard a young man say to his friend, "I believe in Christmas, but I don't buy a tree, or put up decorations, or buy gifts, or anything like that. It's just too commercial, and I'm against that." His friend responded with a high five, "Good for you, man!"
I often hear this sentiment expressed, and it disturbs me whenever I do--especially when I hear it from Christians. How does the removal of all beauty and giving from Christmas honor Christ? It's hip today to decry the "commercialization of Christmas" and say the money could be better spent elsewhere, but before you join in saying these things, please take some time to examine your own heart. Are you moved by love to joyfully celebrate Jesus--to make the things around you beautiful and to give to others so that the fragrance of Christ fills your town, or do you look with disdain on those who do? If the latter, this may reflect a lack of love for Christ, or it may just be a misunderstanding of the value of celebrations. Either way, I urge you to rethink your position. Christ honored Mary's celebration, and He will honor yours, as well.