Tag Archives: Christmas

keep christ in…

Let’s be honest.  People are not going to decide to follow Jesus because of our merchandise that say, “Keep Christ in Christmas“.  That just offers one more opportunity to pigeonhole Christians. I mean, seriously:  do we really need to gift-wrap  ammunition for people already antagonistic towards Christians?

In fact, it seems that the more one publicizes pithy little sayings and reduces the gospel to “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven” soundbite (or my personal favorite, “In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned” [are women not included?!  Ok, that was a cheap shot]), the more the Gospel (that is the good news of God’s love!) gets diluted.

Yes, we water down the Gospel, this phenomenon that has changed the world and still holds hope for the world.

Christmas wasn’t instated by Jesus Christ.  In fact, his birth was not central to many early Christians’ faith.  The fact that only two books in the Bible (Matthew and Luke) begin (or include) the story of Jesus’ birth certainly doesn’t mean that His birth was not important; on the contrary!  But it does mean that many thousands (at least) of people trusted in Christ without political ambition, without trying to coerce people who are not “called by His Name” to celebrate Him.

In fact, I wonder if Jesus cares as much about the arguments we make.  We often say it ourselves, that Jesus wasn’t born on Christmas.  So, why do we get all bent out of shape this time of year when people who aren’t Christians don’t want to celebrate his non-birthday?  Why is it that only one day in the year we remember God who came to be human?  Should not the advent of our Lord be celebrated and shared more than during the winter?

How many abuses have been done to others by Christians?  How many in the name of the babe in the manger?  How many have we, today, participated in, excluding others?  How often have we Christians been unloving or indifferent?  Not just to those who do not believe as we do, but to those who are our brothers and sisters, those who also claim the name of Jesus?

I’m all for celebrating Christmas.  This is probably my favorite time of the year.  But I can’t help thinking we’re fighting the wrong battle by trying to “keep Christ in Christmas.”  After all, is it really our job to keep Jesus somewhere, all neat and tidy?  It’s like we’re trying to appease the gods, relegating Jesus to His one time of year.  Maybe we should be trying to get Christ out of Christmas and into the rest of the world.

Perhaps instead of fighting to “keep Christ in Christmas” (or prayer in schools, or the 10 Commandments outside courthouses, or God on our money or in the Pledge – insert your Christianese battle here), let’s do something that really will impact our world:

Let’s put the Christ back in Christian.

That’s something we can control a bit more.  And it’s something surely more pleasing to God than trying to “take back” Christmas.  After all, what are Christians supposed to be known for, fighting and winning political battles over our rights, or pursuing justice and mercy for the oppressed, setting the captives at liberty, loving their neighbor??

Should we be known for making enemies by making the Gospel as offensive as possible, or realizing that the whole Gospel can be reduced to one statement, “to love your neighbor as you love yourself“?  To be sure, the Gospel is scandelous – who else’s god is celebrated as coming through an unwed teenager?  It can be offensive.  Unfortunately, Christians today have taken that job upon themselves, making ourselves offensive in an effort to claim the right to our own “pursuit of happiness.”  Christian has become a descriptive of culture instead of transformation.

Let’s decide to put Christ back in Christian.

That seems to be a better use of our effort.

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christian = …republican?

Mike Huckabee          I’m an evangelical Christian and I am angry with Mr. Huckabee.  That a frontrunner for the Republican nominee for President would send a Christ-centered Christmas message paid for by his political action committee is distasteful and hypocritical.  In his own overtly political advertisement he levels the charge that there are too many political ads.

          I’m extremely skeptical of Huckabee’s motives.  In order to boost his credentials in the eyes of Christians who only seem to care about electing someone exactly like themselves, he tells us what many of us want to hear.  This is shameless pandering to voters.  It tells us nothing for which he stands, only that he is the best candidate because he celebrates the birth of Jesus.  Come on!  Please get this right, I want no generic winter holidays (although I might swing for a “Happy Festivus”); it’s Christmas time and there should be no shame in celebrating the birth of our Lord.  But please don’t celebrate it in order to schmooze voters; when you do this, you play right into this accusation against Christians: that we will vote for someone simply on the basis of their Christianity, regardless of whether or not he or she is a capable leader.

           I’m tired of this.  And I’m not the only one.  In several interviews with both churched and unchurched persons (conducted by one of my graduate seminary classes), people equated with failure the tendency of the Church to align itself with the Republican Party.  For too many Christians, to be Christian is to be Republican.  As the US Church, we have a lot of ground to make up because of this unholy marriage between conservative Republican politics and Evangelical Christianity. We’re strange bedfellows and we’re the only ones who don’t see it. 

son of god, son of sinners

So, about this time every year, one expects to hear the rumblings of the Christ story, the Nativity, the Advent of the Messiah.  In churches (around the US, at least), plans reaches a fever pitch for Christmas parties, dramas, cantatas, live Nativity scenes and candlelight Christmas Eve services.  The Church world awaits the coming of the Son of God.

Yet only in a few places does Jesus explicitly refer to himself the “Son of God” (John 3:16-18, 5:25, 11:4).  He infers it in a handful of passages (Luke 22:70, Matthew 26:63-64), but even in these parallel accounts of Jesus’ interrogation before Pilate, when asked if he is the Son of God, Jesus responds “Yes” and qualifies it by referring to himself as the “Son of Man.”

Jesus seems far more interested in identifying himself as human, as the “Son of Man.”  He certainly is recognized as “Son of God” by many people, especially the apostle John, who wrote so that we might believe in the Son of God.  But Jesus prefers to be known as a fellow human and to show through his actions that he is God’s son.  (Though not my point, this would be good for Christians to take to heart: to speak of ourselves first as truly human and let our actions prove that we belong to God).  The Book of Matthew alone records Jesus referring to himself as the “Son of Man” in 30 separate passages.  The other Gospels account for 51 more “Son of Man” statements by Jesus referring to himself!  So what does this have to do with us?  What do we do with this?

Matthew, in the first chapter of his book, relates Jesus’ ancestery.  In it we find very human, very broken and sinful people.  In fact, Matthew records 4 women as Jesus’ early ancestors, none of whom should have been included if Matthew’s point was to proclaim Jesus as the Son of God.  Tamar and Rahab were prostitues, and Rahab and Ruth were not Israelites (and in all probability, neither was Bathsheba).  And remember David’s adultery and murder?  The account also names several evil kings of Judah as well as other good ones and a whole mess of unknown parents.

Matthew is telling us in no uncertain terms that Jesus came to us through humanity.  Certainly Matthew recognizes him as the Son of God, but his point tells us that all of these ancestors, the good and evil, Jew and Gentile, honest and deceitful all had a hand in bringing the Messiah to the world.  And therein lies the hope for us.  If God was content to incarnate Jesus through this, at best, shaky lineage then we too have a place in the incarnation of Christ to our world, our community, our family.  Even through all of our messy lives, half-hearted devotion and misplaced passion, God wants to incarnate Jesus.  He is the Son of God and truly the Son of Sinners.  Jesus has cemented his place in history.  And the Son of Man still wants to incarnate himself into ours.

christmas is coming

We’re down to the final 12 days before Christmas and I’m thinking of Christmas carols. I’ve got my favorites – “O Holy Night” tops the list – but to me, the most beautifully crafted phrase comes from “O Little Town of Bethlehem”.

Cast out our sin and enter in; be born in us today.

Be born in us today.” There is no more fitting nor needed experience today than this: to let God who became incarnate in human flesh in Jesus Christ to become incarnate once again in us. Be born in us today. The Beyond-All-This, the More, the Inexpressible yet seemingly impossibly experiential becoming life to others through us. Be born in us today. The God who desired relationships with humans in the most intimate of ways became one; let us let Him come to us again through our flesh, through our lives, our love, our actions.

Be born in us today. If the Church truly is the Body of Christ in some mystical authentic way, let us – the Church, Christ’s body and witness here in His world – be Him in our communities, Him in our neighborhoods, Him in our families. Let His Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Let us be those instruments of peace through which the world can know and be loved by God.

Let us be Christmas today for someone.