If you haven’t watched the entire Christmas ad from Hobby Lobby for 2020, you should.
The ad runs for more than a minute, so they are only running snippets of the ad right now. But the whole ad, seen in its entirety, will move your heart.
I thought about saving this blog idea for a few weeks. After all, it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet.
But, I think Christmas 2020 is going to require some extra time for planning. (At least everyone who is responsible for shipping packages is telling us to plan ahead!)
This Christmas will be unique because of the COVID-19 virus, because of continuing political angst, and because many of our holiday traditions won’t be very traditional this year. That’s why, when I saw this ad, I decided I should make sure all of you could see it as well.
Hobby Lobby nailed it.
I think they presented our country with an important message for our Christmas season.
In a nutshell, Hobby Lobby reminds us that Christmas is what we make it.
Hint: before you read the rest of this blog post, make sure you watch the ad.
Who is our neighbor?
That is the question an “expert in the law” asked Jesus because the expert was trying “to justify himself” (Luke 10:25–29).
A lot of us could tell someone the story of the Good Samaritan, but it’s important to understand why Jesus told the story if we want to learn from the story.
The verses preceding the story of the Good Samaritan put it in context:
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” —Luke 10:25–29
The expert in the law wanted to know the law. Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30–37) so the man would realize that it wasn’t about knowing as much as it was about doing.
Jesus asked him, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:36–37).
Neighbors have always mattered to God
Sometime later, the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus again when they asked him to name the most important commandment.
I’ve often quoted those verses, but Jesus’ answer was based on the Levitical law that originated with Moses: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18).
The last phrase, “I am the Lord,” would not have been spoken by Jesus, but it would have been known by the Pharisees. Christians today miss a lot if they don’t know what Jesus and the Pharisees understood.
When you see Leviticus 19:18 in the Bible, the word Lord is printed in capital letters, indicating it is the high and holy name God gave himself. It is the name we translate as “Yahweh” or “Jehovah,” meaning “I am.”
No Jewish man was allowed to speak the name because it was considered too high and too holy to say. But, Jesus and the Pharisees knew the reason for the most important commandment to “love our neighbor as ourselves.”
We love because God, the great “I am,” commanded it.
We know that the Good Samaritan did the right thing. But Jesus would tell us the same thing he told the expert in the law: “Go and do likewise.”
Obedience begins with knowing what to do, but we haven’t been obedient until it is done.
A perfect Christmas ad
There is a reason the ad from Hobby Lobby meant so much to me.
Jim and I were working in our garage a couple of weekends ago. It was the week for big trash pickup, and we had a lot of “stuff” to get to the curb.
It was a beautiful morning, and several neighbors were out walking and stopped by to speak to us. We have lived in this neighborhood for almost twelve years, but we had never met them before. My husband and I both enjoyed meeting them and getting to know a little of their story.
Later that day, I received two text messages indicating that those neighbors had felt the same way. I told Jim that I want us to do a better job at being a “neighbor” in the days ahead. And I don’t want to wait until “after” COVID to find ways to do that.
That is the part of the ad that touched me. An older couple helped two young people have a better holiday—even during a COVID Christmas.
God will cause a lot of people to cross our paths during our lives. All of them have a need of some kind that we can help with. It might just be meeting the need for kindness and companionship. We can “love our neighbor as ourselves.”
In fact, for God’s people, loving our neighbor is the best way to love ourselves. People who share kindness are most often those who receive it. That’s the culture the Lord would want for us to live in.
The people in the story of the Good Samaritan each had an excuse for not stopping to help. None of them had a reason. Jesus—who was, is, and always will be God—knew the expert in the law was aware of the right thing to do.
But he also knew there would always be excuses to do something else. So Jesus taught him how to define neighbor. A neighbor is the one who understands that our great “I am” has commanded us to be merciful.
We love and obey God when we “go and do” what the Samaritan did.
Christmas, and the rest of the year, is what you make it
Who are our neighbors?
They are not necessarily the people we share a street with; our neighbors are those we share our lives with.
Most importantly, they are the people God places on our daily paths. Caring for them might not seem like much in the moment. But when God puts a person in your path, he or she is the most important choice for that moment.
The theme of the Hobby Lobby ad is “Christmas is what you make it.” Whom does God want your Christmas to be about?
“Go and do” whatever the “Great I Am” commands.
That’s how we love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
We all have “neighbors” to love.
Let’s plan ahead, get creative, and “make” this a great Thanksgiving and Christmas season—for his glory.
NOTE: Our Advent devotional for 2020 is now available, and it was such a joy to write and compile Our Christmas Stories: 26 Reflections to Enrich Your Christmas Season.
More than a few of you will find your stories in this book!
And, while each story differs—some may even provide you with new Christmas traditions—they all ultimately celebrate the “good news of great joy” of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:10). Request your copy of Our Christmas Stories today!