Melanie and I took our first annual trip up to NYC this week. to experience the commercialized side of the Christmas Holiday. We had a great time. We stayed in an overpriced hotel, had a some great food and enjoyed the time walking around.

In the midst of all of this, it was interesting to observe that people really like the story of Jesus at Christmas.

First, we went into St. Patrick’s Cathedral and it was packed. We walked in through the side door, into the stillness and quiet of the cathedral. It really is an amazing site. It seemed as if people were struck with the holy. Some people were sitting in silence and taking in the feeling of the place. Others were obviously in prayer. People generally seemed to be in awe of this inspired by what it represented. We left through the front door and within seconds we were tossed back into the madness of the crowds and Christmas shopping. In less than a minute I overheard someone complaining about how people need to not stop in the middle of the sidewalk to get their group together, thus causing a massive “traffic” jam. (Yes, that was me complaining).

We also went the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. At the end of all the dancing and Santa Clause stuff, they ended in the most interesting way. Instead of ending with a huge dance number or some big bang, they simply ended with a live, quiet and very holy feeling nativity scene. Then the lights came on, and the evening was done. I realized that people were not so much drawn into the “Jesus as Messiah” and the one who came to die and bring salvation to the entire creation. Rather, I realized that people were drawn into the sentimental nature of the Christmas story. The baby lying in the manger, perhaps with a glowing halo. These were nice things to think about at Christmas time. They were drawn to the glistening star in the east, the story of some wise men who came and bowed down before this king. Our culture loves stories and loves sentimental experiences. I think that is what the Christmas story is today for most people. A nice and sentimental story.

If you didn’t look close enough, you would think that we were in a Christian culture still. The fact is, we aren’t. We just have the skin of Christian culture. It was interesting, there was a short story that was read at the end of the Live Nativity scene. It was a nice story. It was sentimental. But, there was nothing about Jesus as Messiah, Jesus’ resurrection. It was not so much about Jesus as redeemer of creation as it was about Jesus as a really important guy in history who really “impacted the world.” It was mostly a nice story. It was essentially a secularized version of the Jesus’ birth.