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Christmas is not for Christians

December 21st, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

As we enter into Christmas week there is a lot to be discouraged about. When we look at the news we see our nation divided still. We know in our hearts that we have overcome much, but the ongoing events remind us that we still have far to go. The world is scary and getting scarier: war, poverty, sickness, unspeakable evil. There doesn’t seem to be much good news anywhere. I’m not even sure what good news would look like.

Yet I find it oddly appropriate as we enter the week of Christmas that it all seems so bleak. If you’re not a church person or if you are not from a formally liturgical tradition you might not know that as we approach the celebration of Christmas in the church calendar we are coming to the end of another season called Advent. Advent is a season of waiting. In churches where readings are prescribed the scripture readings for this season point to a longing for redemption. Restoration and renewal from the ashes of a crushed nation, and a crushed dream.

And I think all the bad news we see reflects a longing we all feel. We long as those of Israel longed. Our longing is the longing of the Advent season. The labels we put on our longing are different. We long for peace, or prosperity, or justice, or love, or deliverance; health, safety, freedom, a chance to start over. The faces of our longing are almost as many as those of we who long. It is so sad that we look at those faces and see difference, when in fact it is the longing itself that unites us.

We are all one in longing. We are all one in our brokenness.

Now as we enter the week of Christmas we may consider that the images we associate with the holiday have little to do with the event. Jesus wasn’t a cute little character who showed up to warm our hearts and give us goodies. He wasn’t a friend to the nice church goers and religious folk, or those who show up at church twice a year pretending to be that. He wasn’t a nice but harmless moralist going around saying pithy but innocuous and easily ignorable things about how to be good.

Jesus was born in a dirty, smelly barn to working class parents. He worked as a laborer. He enjoyed the company of sinners and the lowest of the low. The only people he was consistently at odds with were the upstanding religious folks, who killed him for it. And Jesus said straight up, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10 ESV). And at the bottom of it all is a self-sacrificing love literally unimaginable in human terms; a love for the unloved and sometimes unlovable. So if we can admit that we are the lost, the unloved and unlovable, we can begin to see what’s good about the good news.

It’s only good news for those of us who are broken. But it is good news for those of us who are broken. And since that’s all of us, it’s good news for all the people.

Christmas is not for Christians, nor is God’s love only for Christians. It is for all of us, the lost.

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