At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
Our culture is infatuated with more. More choices. More options. More money. And I know why. We assume these things will bring us freedom. While it’s true that having no options is slavery, are we so sure that its opposite is freedom?
Look around. We live in a culture of limitless options and opportunities. Are we more free?
We’re surrounded by a plethora of devices and technology that promise to save us time and simplify our life? The one thing I seem to have less of every year is time.
We build bigger homes in safer neighborhoods because they offer us peace-of-mind and comfort? Do you feel safe in today’s world? I don’t.
We accumulate more debt, often in the name of progress and upward mobility.
And at what cost? What’s the trade-off?
In a culture of affluence and excess, human connection suffers. Time is ironically what decreases in a culture of excess. The more stuff you have, the more energy required to take care of it. That’s less energy spent investing in relationships. And human relationships need carefree timelessness to be healthy. They need margins. When you remove margins from your life, relationships will suffer.
In a culture of excess, wisdom suffers. Wisdom is the opposite of excess. Wisdom requires a sober mind and a simple life. We wrongly equate wisdom with knowledge or information. Wisdom has little to do with knowledge and much more to do with perspective.
In a culture of excess, empathy suffers. Empathy requires you to pay attention to other people. It asks you to consider different perspectives. And there’s simply no space for that when you’re fixated on more.
So, what’s the alternative?
Advent. The coming of Jesus is the alternative.
Rather than searching for freedom in excess, the Incarnation challenges you to find Life in a manger.
How can you simplify your life during the holiday season?
Father, forgive us for seeking freedom in excess. May we rest in you. May we find peace in the realization that you are enough. Amen.