My family has several Christmas traditions. Some of them are wonderful—like my father reading the Christmas story while we sit by the tree—and some are perfectly dreadful. For instance, on Christmas Day, we cut up hard-boiled eggs and put them into our gravy. (((Gack!))) (((Gack!!))) (((Gack!))) I can’t wrap my head around that one—I mean, don’t you want gravy to be smooth rather than lumpy? Why cram it full of gross egg chunks? Even though half my family agrees with me—and one year we even held a family vote—eggy gravy has continued to stick around. But even worse than eggy gravy is what happens on Christmas Eve. I shudder every time I think about it. My family eats boogers. (((DOUBLE GACK!!!!))) Well, not actual boogers, but they might as well be. We eat oysters.
Let me pause for a moment while I silently gag. I can’t imagine why anyone would voluntarily eat an oyster. I mean, really–what kind of nut came up with the hideous idea that oysters are actually food? I can just picture the first oyster dinner— “Look, a big slimy booger. Let’s try it out. I bet it will be delicious!”
I’d rather eat anything other than an oyster—even eggy gravy. When I look at them, I feel slightly sick, and their smell is revolting. I know it is silly, and it’s embarrassing to admit, but they REALLY creep me out. I’ll admit that since most people like oysters, I’m the weird, odd man out. But I can’t seem to force the wiggly masses down. And why should I have to?? What do oysters have to do with Christmas? I’ve never been able to figure out the connection. But oyster soup and Christmas Eve are inseparable in my family. World-Without-End-Amen.
Now, what is the point of my diatribe against oysters?? I do have a point, I promise. Philippians 2:3-5: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only on your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”
You see, when I was a teenager, I pitched a fit about the oysters. Now, my mother is the best woman in the world, and she didn’t force me to eat oysters, she even made a pot of chili soup every year so family members who hated them had another option. But you see, I didn’t like the look of them. I didn’t want them around. I didn’t see why we had to have them in the house, and since the world revolved around me, I thought we should forget the oysters completely. I’ll never forget looking at my mom after delivering my speech and seeing her smile wobble. I’d been so wrapped up in MY feelings, that I never considered HERS. It never crossed my mind that she liked the oysters. That for HER it was a treat. Christmas Eve was the only time our family ate oysters—which meant it was her only chance to have one. In my selfish whiney-ness, I was putting the kibosh on something she enjoyed. Immediately, I felt like a bloated, ugly, two-headed, spotted toad. I took my words back and apologized. I still wasn’t looking forward to coming eye-to-eye with an oyster, but I wasn’t willing to squash my mother’s enjoyment. Determined to be a good sport, I screwed on a smile. And that Christmas Eve, rather than complaining about the food, I watched my mother relishing it. And I felt happy–actually happy–about oysters.
Oysters have taught me a lot about life and family. They’ve taught me that it isn’t important to always get my own way. They’ve taught me that putting up with some things is worthwhile to make the people you love happy. And in an odd way, they’ve taught me about Christ. You see, Philippians 2:5 says that our attitude shouldn’t be selfish—it should be the same as that of Jesus. Philippians 2:6-8 goes on to say that Jesus gave up equality with God and made Himself nothing. It says that Jesus thought about others to such an extent that He let Himself die on the cross. In light of what Jesus did, surely I can be selfless enough to choke down an oyster (or at least pretend to).
Today, as we get ready to celebrate the birth of Christ, I think it’s important for us (me in particular as I get ready to face an oyster!!!!) to really think about what this holiday signifies. I think it goes beyond gift-giving and love. I think that at its root, Christmas is all about selflessness. Jesus could have stayed enthroned in heaven and left us in our mess, but instead, He took on the indignity of human flesh and sacrificed Himself to pay for our sins. I think that the miracle of Christmas isn’t just the virgin birth, or the star, or the angels—it’s the fact that a powerful Celestial King chose to see us as more important than His owns rights and comfort.
Love comes in many forms. In stables. In swaddling clothes. Even in oysters.
Friends, I hope your Christmas season is full of joy and contentment. And I hope that next year brings each of us a deeper revelation of God’s love. I also hope that if you are choking down oysters tonight—that you actually enjoy them. Merry Christmas!!!!