“Daddy, why do we celebrate the birthday of Jesus on Christmas?” Silas clearly had something on his mind, but I couldn’t figure out his sudden ponderings on theology, so I asked, “What do you mean?” The real issue then came to light when he said, “All this Jesus stuff kind of gets in the way of the fun stuff.”
Silas had reversed cause and effect.
He didn’t understand that because it was the birthday of Jesus, it was Christmas. He assumed because it was Christmas, Jesus decided to have his birthday.
It’s cute when a child reverses cause and effect; it’s not so cute when the rest of us do it.
Reversing cause and effect can have catastrophic consequences.
The Barnyard Tragedy
Joel Gregory tells the story of the Barnyard Tragedy.
There was a rooster whose job it was on the farm to wake up when the sun rose every morning and crow. The crowing of the rooster would wake up the farmer, his wife, and the farm would come alive for the day. Every morning it worked the same way; the sun came up, the rooster crowed, the farmer awoke, and the day began.
It worked this way every morning until one day when the rooster came to some fowl logic. He reversed cause and effect. Instead of believing that because the sun came up, he crowed, he began to believe that because he crowed, the sun came up.
This subtle change had serious consequences.
For one, the rooster got cocky. He began to think too highly of himself. Instead of seeing himself as playing a role on the farm, he assumed he was the most important being on the farm—even elevating himself above the sun.
His relationships with all the other animals suffered because he expected special treatment. He assumed no one else really knew what it was like to be him. Because of the important role he played, he thought himself above some of the menial tasks on the farm. Suddenly, nobody liked him.
Internally, the stress of having the weight of the farm on his shoulders was too much to bear. He became an insomniac rooster. How could he sleep with the threat of oversleeping meaning the sun wouldn’t come up.
Before long the stress was too much for any one rooster to manage and they carried that rooster off to the house for mentally disturbed roosters.
Cause and Effect
Confusion over cause and effect can have disastrous consequences.
We see it all the time when talking with couples about marriage. They reverse cause and effect. They believe that because their marriage is bad that they are unhappy. So often it is because they are unhappy that their marriage is bad.
We see it in work places. How many of us know someone at work who thinks because they crowed, the sun came up?
One thing the Christmas story does—it reminds us of the proper order of cause and effect. The Bible does not say, “In the beginning me.” It says, “In the beginning God.” The weight of the world is not on my shoulders. I am not God.
When I think of the first Christmas, it is almost impossible to imagine what was running through the minds of Mary and Joseph. Can you fathom the pressure of carrying the Son of God while facing the scrutiny of your community, the skepticism of your fiancé, or the anger of your in-laws? Can you imagine the strength it would take to stand beside the one you love when everyone says to leave her? The obedience of Mary has actually caused some to be confused about cause and effect—they say Mary was immaculately conceived giving her the power to carry Jesus because she wasn’t like us.
The Bible tells no such story. Instead it tells the story of a simple couple who when faced with a great challenge chose to obey.
They weren’t responsible for how others reacted.
They weren’t responsible for what their families thought.
They weren’t responsible for saving the world.
They were responsible to do their part of God’s plan. It wasn’t easy, but it was simple. It was simple because they knew God was the great Cause and their obedience was simply the effect.
What Are You Crowing About?
It is no different for us. We can complicate life in so many ways.
If we lose sight of God and his cosmic plan, we can elevate ourselves to a level of importance far beyond what we actually are, believing what we do is the most important thing in the world.
If we lose sight of God and his plan, we can diminish ourselves below what the Bible says and think that what we do does not matter. Neither story is accurate.
What we do is important, but it’s only important as a response to what God has already done through Jesus Christ.
This morning, because the sun came up, it was the job of every rooster to crow.
In light of the Christmas story, I think our job is similar. It is our task to crow of the greatness of God, to crow of his love for all people, to crow of what he has done for us, to crow of what he is willing to do for others.
Our crowing is not a sign of our greatness. It doesn’t cause the Son to do anything. Our crowing is our natural response to what we have seen and what God has done.