Friday, December 16, 2011

Are We Missing the Point?

"Then Peter said, 'Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk."
~ Acts 3:6 (NIV)

There is a song that is often played around Christmas, The Christmas Shoes.  The lyrics may be familiar to many of you, but just in case they are not I will type them here. 

The Christmas Shoes

It was almost Christmas time, there I stood in another line
Tryin' to buy that last gift or two, not really in the Christmas mood
Standing right in front of me was a little boy waiting anxiously
Pacing 'round like little boys do
And in his hands he held a pair of shoes

His clothes were worn and old, he was dirty from head to toe

And when it came his time to pay
I couldn't believe what I heard him say


Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight

He counted pennies for what seemed like years

Then the cashier said, "Son, there's not enough here"
He searched his pockets frantically
Then he turned and he looked at me
He said Mama made Christmas good at our house
Though most years she just did without
Tell me Sir, what am I going to do,
Somehow I've got to buy her these Christmas shoes

So I laid the money down, I just had to help him out

I'll never forget the look on his face when he said
Mama's gonna look so great

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please

It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight


I knew I'd caught a glimpse of heaven's love
As he thanked me and ran out
I knew that God had sent that little boy
To remind me just what Christmas is all about

The first time I heard that song, it made me cry.  The sentiment is sweet, and the circumstances tragic.  Our hearts should indeed be stirred by those whose lives are filled with heartbreak and need a miraculous touch from God. 

By the hundredth time I had heard it, though, I started to get angry.  I could not understand why, and thought that maybe it was how hopeless the boy's situation was.  Even if he got the shoes, he was still going to lose his mother, and I maybe it made me angry because I did not want to be reminded of that.  But as I sat in my living room the other day, it struck me why this song makes me so angry.  I heard them sing, "I knew that God had sent that little boy to remind me just what Christmas is all about."  And everything that is in me fumed, "This is NOT about YOU!  And God did NOT send that little boy JUST to teach you a lesson, YOU had an opportunity to touch that boy's life and you MISSED it!"

Now, I realize, this song is based on a popular story that has been published all over the internet. Whether fact or fiction, every question and answer site has a different take on it; so I cannot say for sure.  So know that this is not exactly a condemnation of Newsong or any of the myriad of Christian artists who have covered the song, nor about the person who penned the story in the first place, nor the original man who may or may not have stood in the original line on Christmas Eve.  Rather, it is a call to action.

You may be thinking, "But he bought the kid those did he miss his opportunity?"

It makes me angry to think that all we have to offer the world, as Christians, is a comforting arm on someone's shoulders when they are in the midst of life's most difficult circumstances.  Or a few nickels to "fix" a circumstance.  When Peter was in this situation, he said, "Here's what I have for you, healing in the name of Jesus!"

Why, if this man was a Christian, did he not say, "Okay, I will buy these shoes for you, but after that, take me to your mother. I will lay hands on her, and pray for her healing in the name of Jesus!"  We are missing the point of Christmas if we think that comfort in sorrow is all we are here for.  Christmas is all about what Jesus was all about, right?  What did Jesus believe his purpose on the earth was?

 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. 17The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”e
20Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Luke 4:16-21

According to this passage, Jesus purpose was of course salvation, but also to heal!  Yes, all those spiritual and emotional things like freedom for the oppressed, preaching the good news, proclaiming God's favor were all included, but so was sight for the blind.  Similar passages of Jesus explaining his purpose include Matthew 11:

2When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples 3to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
4Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosyb are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. 6Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” 
Matthew 11:2-6

The lame walk, the dead are raised?!?!  That is POWER!  And that is what we have in Christ Jesus.  That is what we offer to the world!  It is true, Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 1:3 that we comfort others with the same comfort we have received; but comfort is not all we were called to give.  If Jesus said, "greater things than these," should we not be at least striving to follow in the same works He did?  Jesus called the lame out of their paralysis, the blind out of their darkness, the deaf out of their silence.  Jesus raised the dead.

Those things sound so huge and intimidating to us in our modern age.  And they are a "big deal," of course.  But it is what Jesus came to do, and what WE are called to do.  And if that is what Jesus is all about, then it is "what Christmas is all about," too.  We are not called to do anything on our own, but only in the power of God, so what are we so afraid of??

We are afraid God is not going to show up.  But, the only reason God does not show up in our everyday lives is that we do NOT invite him! We actually expect that our prayers for healing will be unanswered, and praying for the dead to be raised...well that just sounds ridiculous!

So I am realizing that The Christmas Shoes makes me angry because we have so much more to offer the world than simply kind words and kind actions, and I feel like this song (which claims to understand the point of Christmas) is missing it!  We can offer hope, and a real and tangible healing. We are offering Jesus, and everything He came to accomplish on the earth.  When the sick came to Jesus, the Bible does not record one instance where Jesus said, "actually, I am going to let you stay sick a while longer because it is going to touch so-and-so's life."  No, it says He healed all who came to him.

What would happen if we actually prayed for healing every time we came across a person who needed it?  What would happen if we prayed until we actually saw something happen (or truly felt the Spirit release us from praying, instead of just saying that because we are afraid we will not see results)?

Christmas is not just about thinking nice thoughts, saying nice words, and even doing nice things for people. Those things are the RESULT of what Christmas is about, and more than that they are only PART of the picture.  And God does not send hurting people our way because we benefit from it.  We certainly benefit from it, but that is the aftermath, not the purpose.  He sends hurting people our way because He longs for us to draw them to Him.

Christmas is about God loving us and desiring relationship with us SO MUCH that He sent His only son to earth in the form of a fragile little baby. A fragile little baby that was destined for a brutal crucifixion, no less!  But that baby grew up to be a man (who was and is also God), who touched the lives of everyone he encountered. He lived, died, and rose again to bring us back to life in every sense.  Not just "in Heaven," but here on earth.  John 10:10 says Jesus came that we might have life, and have it abundantly.  I am not saying we will not have heartache and trials, but I am saying that we should remember in the midst of all of them who God is and what He can do.  What he longs to do. 

Hearing that song over and over and over again during the Christmas season just keeps reiterating to me, "We are missing it! We are missing it!"  And, because it is a tear-jerker, many people revel in this song. In the heartbreak, in how touching it is that the man bought the shoes, in how sweet the idea is.  But where is the power?  The power of Jesus to heal, to touch lives, to make a real difference is completely missing from this song.  Where is the Jesus who said, "She is not dead, but only asleep?" Where is the Jesus who said, "Rise, and walk, your faith has made you well?"

Jesus offered real hope to everyone who came to Him, should we not do the same?  Let us not miss the point, this Christmas (or any other day of our lives).  Every day we should be looking for opportunities to lavish God's love on people, to offer tangible hope, to lay hands on the sick, to liberate the oppressed.


  1. Amen...and amen. If the best we can offer the world is a box of Kleenex and a Hallmark card then truly we are missing the awesome opportunity in the power that we have in the Holy Spirit that daily functions in us. We have been given the same power Jesus had!!! How silly of us to forget that when we say "I wish there was something I could do!" There's always something we can do!! Walk in the fullness of exactly who we are!!

  2. Very well said, Mo :) And that is exactly right.