the year Christmas got real
Christmas has always been my favorite.
Family. Friends. Good food. Presents.
For an extrovert with a tendency towards a cookie-based diet whose love language is gifts, it’s a win-win-win.
Growing up in the Church, I was taught faithfully that Santa wasn’t real; that “Jesus is the reason for the season”; that we should always strive to “Keep Christ in Christmas”.
But unlike the Savior whom we were celebrating, these ideas never put on flesh and became a living, breathing part of my life.
What does it mean to keep “Christ” in “Christmas” anyway? Is it just semantics? Because looking around, I saw that our celebrations – other than the addition of a candlelight service on Christmas Eve and perhaps an Advent wreath adorning the center of the dinner table – did not really look much different than the rest of the world.
I made list upon list of gifts I wanted, complete with color options and size requirements.
I spent far too much money giving people I love things they don’t want or need, and not near enough time actually talking and being with these people.
I bought in. Hook line and sinker.
Almost all of us do.
We parade under banners of keeping Christ central, but the crowning glory of our march is a heretical and horrifying mish-mash of God putting on flesh and our consumption-driven culture.
We celebrate “golden-calf”mas at best.
You see, I believe the threat to Christmas is not a billboard in Times Square or chiming a politically-correct “Happy Holidays” in the grocery line, I believe Christmas was lost long ago, and the Church went right along with it.
We lost Christmas when we decided safety was of higher value than scandal.
When Jesus became more equivocal to Beaver Cleaver than to a subversive minority who challenged the greatest empire in human history.
When we stopped welcoming in the stranger, and instead sent them downtown to the shelter.
Our Messiah, a stranger himself.
A baby, born in a dirty, dark, lonely shack. Maybe even a cave. The smell of animal feces and hay thick in the air. Think state fair barn, not that nice, shiny ceramic nativity.
A king, slaughtering hundreds and maybe even thousands of baby boys in an attempt to slay the Messiah child.
The Promised One – God with us, Emmanuel – born to a people of no esteem. Oppressed. Exiled.
So it came to pass, in these days…
children are dying…
people are hurting ….
families are falling apart…
but this, contrary to popular Evangelical belief, this is not God’s judgement.
This is the same situation into which God saw fit to wrap Godself in the flesh of a man, to lay glory aside, and to live among us.
To hurt with us…
To weep with us…
To die with us…
and then, to rise.
The promise of everything set right. Renewed. Restored.
This year, more than ever, Christmas is real to me.
A world, evil and cruel.
Systems that oppress.
People who cut short the lives of others.
And in spite of this. In the midst of this. Because of this…
The promise that everything – yes, even these things – will be set right.
The carols ring so true:
“long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared…”
“chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother and in His name all oppression shall cease…”
“O come Desire of Nations bind all peoples in one heart and mind, bid envy, strife and sorrows cease…”
This year, Christmas got real.
May we allow the Messiah we celebrate to be just as real, on this day and every day.