A Pale Shade of Christmas

Earlier this week I finally watched the WestJet Christmas Miracle–a delightful video that has been bouncing around the internet all week. It’s the one where an airline surprises its customers with free Christmas presents while they wait for their bags after a flight (it’s such a fun watch–take the 5 minutes!).

I couldn’t help smiling–generosity is contagious, you can feel its power even through the short clip. I went home and showed my kids; while they had to watch it twice before they understood, once they did we were all giggling. I found myself marveling at how this little airline had so wondrously captured the spirit of Christmas.

But had they really?

Don’t get me wrong–it was a beautiful gesture, a heartwarming act of kindness, and it makes for a beautiful video. But we make a mistake when we link it to the story of Christmas. And we tarnish the hope of Christmas when we distort its message. The truth is, in many ways this was the opposite of the Christmas story. Not that it isn’t a great video, but instead because it isn’t great enough. It’s a a lot of fun, but the story of the first Christmas is

SO. MUCH. BETTER.

See, this is a story of some “have a lots” giving to the “have plentys.” The first Christmas is a story of then One who has it all giving to those who have nothing.

This is a story of giving a little, and getting a great deal in return (any marketing department would absolutely kill for the profit returns of a viral video). The first Christmas is a story of sacrificing everything in exchange for nothing.

This is a story of a bunch of people who smiled and giggled while they picked up, wrapped, and delivered gifts that were purchased with someone else’s money. The original Christmas story was about Someone who purchased a gift with his very life.

In this story, you had to have a ticket in order to qualify. The first Christmas was about giving a gift to those who could never hope to qualify.

And perhaps most of all, our immediate reaction to this story is to smile, giggle, and then click “share.” The reaction to the first Christmas was more likely to be scorn, ridicule, and offense.

The Messiah in a feeding trough? Angels singing to repulsive shepherds? Royalty from afar bypassing local kings for peasants? Here’s a better way to capture the spirit of the first Christmas. Instead of WestJet buying gifts for its customers, picture Homeland security meeting illegal immigrants at the border with ride into town, a gift of their choice, and automatic citizenship.

Scandalous, you say? So did practically everyone who heard about the first Christmas.

And this is exactly what makes the first Christmas so much better than any marketing stunt (even a well-intentioned one).

Christmas is not an exclusive offer reserved for those who can afford to fly.

Christmas can never be paid back.

Christmas will always be for those who are most underserving, for the outcasts.

Christmas will always be scandalized by the image of the holy God in a filthy manger.

Now that’s a merry Christmas.

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About Tim Owens

I'm a husband, father, and Christ follower. I also live in Albany, NY, where I work as a pastor.
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