What Bethlehem Taught About Marketing Jesus

Around 2,000 years ago Bethlehem hosted the most spectacular event since, “Let there be light.”

It was completely unique; utterly new. Nothing like it had been done before, or since. It was the incarnation of the eternal Son of God in real human flesh and bone, the Son of Man, born to save us. It was the divine answer to the human problem.

But, who did God tell?

He let it go largely unnoticed.

Sure, an angel choir sang praises, but to whom?—just a few shepherds in the middle of nowhere. Just a few non-influencers at the edge of a podunk town in a backwater region of a disinterested empire.

The shepherds talked it up, sure. But all the response they got was that people wondered.

God did let two others, elderly Simeon and 84-year-old Anna, in on the big event. They astonished Joseph and Mary, making a big deal over Jesus when they brought him to the temple 40 days later. But nothing much came of it; they weren’t exactly movers and shakers in Jerusalem.

And, there were a few foreign star gazers (Magi), too. But they just showed up out of the blue, asked directions, and then, left without a word.

That was the extent of God’s big announcement.

One has to wonder, why.

Here’s my take:

Because Jesus isn’t a product.

Jesus isn’t God’s equivalent of a new iPhone to be beautifully packaged, merchandised, shipped, sold, and tracked.

God wasn’t measuring Jesus’ performance in the marketplace. He had no charts plotting Jesus’ market penetration. There were no graphs tracking Jewish versus Gentile uptake. Jesus wouldn’t need tweaking. He would never be re-branded. He didn’t come in multiple, market-sensitive packages.

He just came. He did His Father’s will. And He trained a few followers to tell the world about it.

No more angel choirs.

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So, here we are in our modern, free-market consumer society, and the message about Jesus has finally come to us. In ordinary, sometimes forced ways (your parents made you go to church, right?), the message, this gospel, is now our charge.

Will we pass it on as it was received?—in its biblical essence, unpackaged, unadorned?—at once both divine and earthy, glorious and offensive?

Or should we measure it, test it, tweak it for maximum relevance and appeal?—Because, after all, we know so much more about human nature now.

Given what Bethlehem taught about marketing Jesus, perhaps we should question the relevance of the question, “How do we make the message relevant?”

I hope I, we, can leave it alone, except to make it known.

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I’ll write more about how we often don’t leave it alone next time.

Grace and peace, Lon

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Who Can Enter the Kingdom of Heaven?

I read this recently…

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”—Matthew 18:1-4

…and had this thought…

It isn’t the foolishness, naivety, or ignorance of children that suits them for the kingdom of heaven. It’s the absolute dependence and trust, the absence of all that smacks of working, earning, or bargaining our way into God’s favor.

It’s the ability to receive the kingdom as a gift, rather than a reward.

This Christmas, let us recall that we are receiving a Savior who opens His kingdom to us.

 

She Needed to Know: Is Jesus Pro-Women?

Dawn and I recently had a conversation about feminism with a young woman we have known and cared about for a long time.

The topic centered around how society had made this young woman feel “less than…” and how she felt that the ideals of feminism defended her value as a woman.

She identified “society” as anything and anyone (male or female, Christian or non-) who made her feel she had to look or act a certain way to be valued as a person. Whether it was pressure to look sexy in heels, or to like pink or dolls, or to not like math and science, the pressure was real to her.

Dawn and I spoke at length with her about this. Through the conversation it was evident that the pressure she felt took an emotional toll on her. It caused her pain. And we tried to be supportive.

The next day, reflecting on the conversation, I realized that we hadn’t told her one, very important thing.

THE thing, really.

So I wrote her this note.

Perhaps some of you need to hear this as well.


Dear _______,

It’s evident from what you said last night, that the environment you live in pressures you to believe that to be a woman is to be “less than…”

I understand the reality of what you sense. It’s wrong. And it’s sad. Because it’s not true.

And…

The best response I can think of is the gospel of Jesus Christ:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.—Galatians 3:28-29

The idea that all of humanity, regardless of gender (or rank, or ethnicity), is equally valuable by God’s measure and equally heirs of God’s promised blessing was radical in the ancient world.

And it is the foundation of the best view of ourselves.

⟩ The extent to which our culture pressures women with “You are less than…” is the extent to which our culture has rejected the gospel of God’s unmerited favor toward women.

⟩ The extent to which women feel the need to assert “I am not less than…” is the extent to which they have not understood or embraced the gospel of God’s immeasurable value of them.

⟩ The extent to which christians or the church pressure women to feel “less than…” is the extent to which they have twisted or betrayed the gospel of God’s unconditional love toward women.

I glimpsed your emotion about this matter and I’m sorry. I can’t fix society or the church for you, but I can unashamedly recommend that embracing the gospel fully, is the best means of finding true liberty to be a woman who is never “less than…”

The gospel assures us that God embraces your value as a woman.

I hope there is some light in that for you.