Modern populist culture is rather tedious and frustratingly annoying. From music artists, to actors, to politicians, and into the ordinary realms of life, we are plagued with people who want the world to evolve around them. Politicians are more concerned about their opinion polls than delivering good and right policy for the country. Musicians, actors, and other media personalities somehow think they have the moral high ground based on their popularity. Reality television makes everything about the personalities, making cooking, or building, or gossip a side issue. The narcissism of this filters right through our society, with “selfies” taken wherever one finds a camera and a phone.
With such a dominance of self-grandeur, it is of little surprise it pollutes our Christian communities. Going to church more about me than being immersed in Christ. The style of worship, the music we sing, the things the pastor does, or doesn’t do, the community activities, are all measured by how well my needs are being met. Dare we try anything new - it might detract from meeting my needs, or satisfying my personal taste! The Christian church has adopted a form of ecclesiastical narcissism, replicating the world around it. It’s of little wonder many churches are dying. They become irrelevant when there is no distinctiveness in how they function to the world around them.
When Joseph enters the scene as Mary’s betrothed, the same narcissistic self-centeredness permeated his thinking. As an older man, he needed a wife and children to carry on his legacy. He contracts a betrothal to young Mary, and before they are married discovers she is pregnant. His first thought was about himself. How would his status be affected if he married a woman who was apparently unfaithful? What would he his peers think when the betrayal becomes public knowledge? How could he father a child for whom he was not the legitimate father? Joseph’s first thoughts were about meeting his own needs. Only when God intervened in a dream, and reminded Joseph that this was not about him, but about what God was doing for all people, that he changed his mind.
As we prepare for Christmas, I wonder how much you have bought into the narcissism of the world. If you were to be honest, how much of your faith is more about what you want for yourself, than for how it may impact another? What about your practice of the Christian faith is about expecting your needs to be met? The subtle deceptiveness of the world wants you to believe that Christmas is about meeting your needs, making you feel good, getting what you “deserve” or expect. How hard is it as Christians to embrace the unique and wonderful opportunity to publicly declare that Christmas is not about me? How hard is it to declare that Christmas is about Jesus, and God’s intervention in our narcissistic world?
As you continue to prepare for Christmas, take time to pause and put your needs to one side. The world needs to see that there is a better way, and only you can show them that. Christ to set aside his own self so the Gospel may touch and transform your life. He calls you to do the same so it can touch the lives of those who are yet to hear it. Our first question should always be, not how my needs can be met, but how I can meet the needs of another. This is the greatest gift you can give this Christmas – for Christmas is a reminder that it is never about you. It is always about Jesus.