“The Business” Of Christmas

Dec 21st, 2019 | By | Category: Featured Issues, Politics & Current Events

In Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol,” the dialogue between the ghost of Jacob Marley and Ebenezer Scrooge is most enlightening.  As Scrooge protests Marley’s intervention, he declares that Marley “was always a good man of business,” to which Marley responds:  “Business! . . . Mankind was my business.  The common welfare was my business: charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business.”  The feverish materialism of the Christmas season seems to side with Scrooge’s miserly greed, not Marley’s redeemed perspective.

In November, my wife and I saw the movie, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”  Arguably one of the best movies of 2019, it stars Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers, the host of the popular PBS program Mister Rogers’s Neighborhood, which aired from 1968 through 2001.  Our children were mesmerized by Mr. Rogers, as they watched him every afternoon after their daily nap.  “Would you be mine, could you be mine, please would you be my neighbor?” The threefold question repeated for nearly 900 episodes of Mister Rogers’s Neighborhood was the recurring song Fred Rogers sang as he entered the front door.


Incredibly gracious and compassionate, Rogers’s greatest passion was for children, who, because of his Christian faith, were of infinite worth and value to him.  Play is the language of childhood and he used puppets and make-believe to help children work through conflicts and resolve fears.  Therefore, he loved to tell stories.  Fred Rogers once said: “I like to compare the holiday season with the way a child listens to a favorite story.  The pleasure is in the familiar ways the story begins, with the anticipation of familiar turns it takes, the familiar moments of suspense, and the familiar climax and ending.”  The story of Christmas is like that.  So, let’s review the biblical narrative.  The scene is the backwater town of Bethlehem.  The innkeeper, Herod and the other political and religious leaders all missed the enormity of what was occurring before their very eyes.  But the shepherds and the magi; they knew.


The shepherds were tending their flocks in the fields near Bethlehem, keeping watch against thieves and predatory animals.  In all likelihood, these very sheep would be offered as sacrifices on Temple Mount in Jerusalem, less than five miles away.  Shepherds were despised and distrusted and were not even permitted to give testimony in a court of law.  They were poor and most likely uneducated, perhaps even unable to read the Hebrew Scriptures.   On that Christmas night, Luke 2:8-20 reminds us, an angel, joined by a host of angels singing praises to God, announced Christ’s birth. The shepherds immediately went to Bethlehem, but, because they were poor, they offered no gifts to the Child; instead, they gave themselves.


The magi (Matthew 2:1-12) were likely from Persia and members of a religious caste devoted to astrology and divination.  Therefore, they quickly discerned the importance of the star, which guided them to the Christ child.  Their journey was over 800 miles and would have taken about 40 days.  Arriving at Bethlehem, they worshipped the Child and gave Him the most extravagant, valuable, and marketable gifts imaginable in the ancient world—gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Perhaps, that is how Mary and Joseph financed their sojourn to Egypt.  These potentates from the East were rich, powerful men of leisure who could afford a long, expensive trip.  What a contrast with the lowly shepherds.


However, the shepherds and the magi were united in their joy, exhilaration and worship—a Savior had come.  They knew the same truth that historic, biblical Christianity has always embraced:  This child was Immanuel, the world’s Savior, the Messiah and the coming King of kings and Lord of lords.  That is why we sing the carols and give our gifts—all in remembrance of God’s gift in Jesus.  Unmerited.  Undeserved.  We simply trust in His completed work that began at the cradle, and led to the cross.  That is the “business” of Christmas.

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2 Comments to ““The Business” Of Christmas”

  1. Sally Houdek says:

    Thank you, Dr. Eckman, we especially appreciated your last paragraph. We are truly thankful for the reason of this season. Christ our Savior and Lord, being born, to do the will of His Father; His finished work on the Cross. Amen.

  2. Arlie Rauch says:

    And His soon coming again!