It was a typical morning in the animal market. The sun beat down from overhead, promising a hot afternoon. Weary shoppers, hoping to finish their business before the heat of the day, threaded their way between animal pens, eager shopkeepers, and the currency exchange tables set up sporadically throughout, looking for the animal they desired. The typical noises of a middle-eastern marketplace saturated the air: lambs calling for their mothers, doves cooing, children crying, customers bargaining, and shopkeepers loudly advertising their wares, and why they were superior to everyone else’s.
If you or I suddenly opened our eyes and found ourselves there, the only thing unusual we would notice throughout the scene would be the high marble walls and pillars surrounding the market, and the important-looking people who occasionally strode by in spotless white robes.
Likely, we would just shrug it off. After all, no two markets are ever quite the same.
But there was One watching that scene from the entryway who did not shrug it off. He saw the bartering, the hopeless desperation of the people, the greediness of the sellers. That was bad enough, though not unusual for a marketplace. But the worst part? It was happening in His Father’s House.
He had come to liberate the world, and this day He made His purpose clear. Picking up some cords lying along the path, He deftly twisted them into a rope. Then, raising the rope, a look of righteous indignation in His eyes, He called, His trumpetlike voice carrying clearly through the noise: “Take these things away! Do not make my Father’s House a house of merchandise!” He descended the steps into the temple courtyard, freeing animals and overturning the tables of the currency exchangers. There was no resistance; all fled before Him.
And yet, we know there was no change. Because three years later, a week before His death, the same scene repeated itself, and even then, nothing changed. The Jews had taken the Passover ceremony, which was to be a solemn, yet joyful occasion reminding them of the Savior’s soon coming to earth, and merchandised it.
I would submit to you that we do the same thing today. In our own culture. Our own country.
Let’s replay the story.
It’s a typical December day in the mall. The normal sounds fill the air: people talking, children crying, strains of “Jingle Bells” floating over it all. Santa sits in his giant chair, alongside a tree covered in glittering, sparkling lights, taking a few short moments with each child to question them about their behavior during the year and listen to their gift requests. Weary shoppers, trying to finish their business quickly so they can head home to supper, walk quickly down the concourse, some half-dragging children behind them, some alone, all looking for the gift they seek.
And there is One watching the scene who longs to calm each desperate soul, to love each lonely heart, to assure each rejected one of His acceptance. It is peace that we seek. Who can fulfill that need better than the Prince of Peace?
It isn’t really the day He was born. We can speculate, but we don’t know exactly which date that is. But I don’t think that matters to Him. It’s the day we’ve chosen to celebrate His birthday and His incredible gift to us, and that’s what matters. And yet, we have taken Christmas, which should be a solemn, yet joyful occasion reminding us of when the Savior came to earth, and merchandised it.
The best gifts are those that can never be repaid, those things that the receiver could never hope to obtain on their own. That is the kind of gift Jesus gave to us. Consider with me how we can honor that gift this Christmas.