Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Miracle...

Here we go again: "Put the CHRIST back in CHRISTmas," the postings on Facebook proclaim. Every year we get a raft of folk upset about merchants "using" Christmas as a way to make money (imagine!) and ignoring the "reason for the season." Why, a few years ago a new controversy cropped up: checkout persons no longer being allowed to say "Merry Christmas," because not everyone happens to be a Christian. That one still stews, to a degree, although a Walmart clerk DID say "Merry Christmas" to me recently; I hope she didn't get fired. Personally, I'm fine with "Happy Holidays," as we ARE NOT all Christians in this diverse society, and NO we are not a "Christian nation," as anyone who delves into U.S. history for more than five minutes will tell you. "Happy Holidays" is polite--it could mean "Happy Chanukah," "Merry Christmas," or "Happy Festivus," but it is still nice.

The Christmas miracle I would like to see includes the realization that for those of us who do profess to be Christian, you CAN'T take Christ out of Christmas. Oh, we can "secularize" the season with the best of them: shopping until we drop; partying like it's 1999; eating like we weigh 1999; or getting overly irritated at the temporary holiday hires in our local department stores. Jesus IS Christmas, though, and is (as a friend recently posted on Facebook) much, much more than the "reason for the season." As the Christ Event continues to unfold in human history, the Christmas miracle is being rolled out, too. People are beginning to notice that we are diverse society and that everyone is a child of God, deserving of human kindness and dignity, and certainly legal and human rights. In response to recent heinous acts of terrorism, the historically blurred lines between "good" and "evil" are being more clearly defined. Maybe this is what Jesus was alluding to when he spoke of "separating the sheep from the goats." (I'm guessing sheep are the winning team in this metaphor?) Christ inhabits Christmas--and the miracle continues to be revealed--in the growing generosity of Christians around the holidays. More Christians are seeing the joy in giving less "trinkets" and using the savings to support UMCOR, Church World Service (blanket project), "Imagine No Malaria," World Vision, or the local food pantry or Salvation Army citadel. At St. Paul's, the church I serve, our various "giving trees" for children, prisoners, what-have-you, are quickly "attacked" by ravaging disciples with redeemed wallets looking to "do a little Jesus-ing" of their own. They are preaching a powerful Gospel, my friends, and some of them are getting hung up on this "cheerful giver" thing far beyond the Christmas season! This is an addiction I can support.

I wonder: shouldn't Christian people wear a perpetual smile and exude an almost guttural joy during the days of Christmas? After all, the holiday DOES celebrate the birth of our Savior. Persons who have legitimate reason to experience a "Blue Christmas" because of the recent passing of a loved one, or because of seasonal depression get a bye on this "exuding joy" thing, but the rest of us don't. If WE can't show genuine joy over Christmas, where do we get off harping at Walmart clerks or decrying the "secularization" of the season? No, I'm beginning to believe that the only people who have the ability to take "Christ" out of "Christmas" are Christians! If we aren't the banner-carriers for this most festive season, with its stars, glorious Christmas Trees, decorated neighborhoods, colors, and aromas, then we're not "preparing the way of the Lord" like we could be. We have a chance to witness to our faith handed to us on a Silver Bells platter, Beloved! Give big tips in the restaurants, flash a redemptive smile, dance up a storm like old Fezziwig in "A Christmas Carol"--don't let "the world" out gas us in making happy!

"...the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid: for behold--I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.'"

There it is--this is where it all began. Let the merchants make their wages. Hear the choirs sing and the youth groups squeak out "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" on the porches of shut-ins. Empty your wallet like a transformed Scrooge to feed and cloth the poor and to buy presents for needy children. Go to church, if for no other reason to sit with your family and give thanks for them and celebrate the love you have for each other. Smile..smile some more...and then smile again, especially toward those giving you bad service because they are over-worked. Slip them a five-spot, just because. Tell your boss how much you like your job, and thank her for the job she does. Say a prayer and ask God to help you open up and do more Jesus-ing in the New Year. Kiss your partner, just because. Hug your kids. Don't be afraid--there is Good News, and it doesn't originate on Wall Street or from Washington, or even on TV, but in a manger in Bethlehem. It's a Christmas miracle!

Merry Christmas, Beloved!

What's Next?

  What’s Next?   2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 6:1 David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. 6:2 David and all the people...