When you think about it, Christmas is the most impractical holiday on the calendar.
The story begins in a garden, where an Almighty Father faces a man and woman who have just broken the one and only rule He gave them, ungratefully rejecting the incredible gifts He had lovingly bestowed upon them. In the midst of dealing with their betrayal, He promises that He will take care of satisfying the demands of justice so the man and woman and their children can be restored to Him. This kind of love is not practical.
We move to a man named Abraham, who changed his entire life because that Father told him it was necessary and promised to make him the father of a chosen people. Abraham had no evidence to support the Father’s words. But his impractical faith responded to the Father’s impractical love, and the world was changed.
Next in our story is a young shepherd named David, who single-handedly faced and conquered an enemy who was considered unbeatable. And he did it with a slingshot. In David, the impractical love that had inspired impractical faith had led to impractical courage.
Now we meet a young woman named Mary, who did not ask a single practical question when an angel asked her to become the instrument for the fulfillment of the impractical promise made in the garden so long before. In Mary, the love and the faith and the courage found a perfect home, and a Child was conceived.
Joseph is the next impractical figure. He has had no visits from an angel. He has been given no explanation by his betrothed wife for her pregnancy. On the strength of a dream, he decides to believe that the fulfillment of the promise is at hand, and do his part to protect its completion. Joseph’s faithfulness defies practicality.
Finally, we see the magi. They travel the world to pay royal homage to an infant who has no title or wealth, and who was born in a stable. Not only do they visit, they leave behind gifts of great value. And they get there by following a star. Hardly the actions of practical men.
Two thousand long years have passed.
We all know the story so well that we almost never consider what it must have been like for each of the people who contributed to its accomplishment. People who probably were given the same advice handed out so often today. Advice that says that faith is okay, as long as we remember to be practical about it.
But if Abraham had been practical, there would have been no Isaac and no Chosen People. If David had been practical, Goliath would have prevailed and the Chosen People destroyed. If Mary had been practical, there would be no Child to be born. If Joseph had been practical, there would have been no earthly father to protect the Life that would redeem a world. If the magi had been practical, the message that this Saviour was for all would have been lost.
Christmas is not about wrapped presents. It is about a Child who challenges us to respond to impractical love with impractical faith and courage. If we do, we are not just remembering a birth in a stable, we are attending it.