Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "As With Gladness Men Of Old"1 (Lyrics)
Matthew 21:12-13 – Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. "It is written," he said to them, "'My house will be called a house of prayer,' but you are making it a 'den of robbers.'" (NIV)
Halloween bags still held treats. The calendar had barely turned from the fall feasts. But the staff were there, clearing the shelves. Anything that looked orange, yellow, or black was marked down to move out the door. Fall had been supplanted, not by winter, but by "Christmas". I say "Christmas" in guarded fashion. What I saw had nothing to do with Christ. There was no hint of a holy night. There was no simplicity. There was no Silent Night to be heard. The empty shelves were waiting to be stocked with more stuff that could be bought and sold. Fall was gone. It had turned to make-or-break time in the commercial world. "Christmas" was what mattered now, and those shelves were not going to be stocking themselves. It was a flurry, not of snow, but of activity, that I saw.
I have always been uneasy about how to handle "Christmas" in a culture that has previously nodded towards Jesus Christ, but has now adapted a largely commercial tone to the season. Churches may fuss about stores rushing the season, but we may have even contributed to it by having a four-week season of preparation for it, called "Advent". Complaints about how commercial "Christmas" has gotten are as prevalent as the shmaltzy carols that blare over the store speakers. There seems to be no end to the commercial clamour that surrounds the "Christmas" season.
So, it is appropriate during this Advent season to consider today's scene of Jesus in the temple. There was a close connection between trade and sacrifice in that day. Sacrifices had to be purchased; someone had to offer animals for sale; someone had to exchange money to the proper coinage. Someone had to do it! Commerce seemed necessary.
Yet nowhere in all of Scripture do we see Jesus in such a rage! He is not just upset — he is livid! He cannot restrain His need to overturn this situation and what it implies. The trade has overtaken the reason that it was created; the exchanges have blurred the relationship with God that was to be the heart of the matter. It was as if salvation had been surrendered to the lowest bidder. Jesus, the One who knew best the true price of salvation, could not stand by and watch! Someone had to call them on it!
As we move through Advent, the season of waiting, anticipating, restraint, and expectation, may we consider well the cost that God paid on our behalf, and not cheapen it with trinkets and tinsel.
Prayer: Lord God, help us to see the priceless gift that You have given us. May all that we give remind others of Your generous grace and love. Amen.