In the west, there has been a growing sense that our freedom and liberties are being stripped away from us this time of year. I read it about each holiday season. There is a simmering sense that something has got to give. Each year it’s a new headline on how we are being marginalized and backed into a corner:
Happy Holidays in place of Merry Christmas.
Holiday Tree in place of Christmas tree.
Remove all Jesus centric carols from public caroling.
RED CUPS! (Starbucks is the Grinch, obviously)
The injustice is portrayed as something of a deep oppression and the growing sense is that it has truly reached fever pitch. In the U.S. our current POTUS used this tension as a legitimate platform for his campaign. Vote him in and all liberty and freedom will be restored to its rightful place once again.
America, the great Christian Nation, will once again celebrate it’s Christian tradition without any pushback or tyranny, once and for all.
This, my friends, is a total travesty.
Jesus’ first followers joined a movement that promised the exact opposite of that which is being fought for in this current “Christian” culture. They pledged allegiance to a suffering servant and chose service over privilege. They determined themselves to fight the injustice and tyranny of the State by being willing to be killed by the State. They WILLINGLY subjected themselves to be completely stripped of all their rights, simply because that was the model given to them by this manger born baby, turned death defeating, resurrected God/Man.
Shouldn’t we be so glad that Jesus chose to sacrifice his position, his rights, his status… simply to invite us further into his Kingdom? Isn’t that why we sing? Isn’t that why we decorate and wrap presents? Isn’t that why carve delicious meats and bake delicious treats? What better reason to celebrate? And what better model for inclusion could we possibly have?
I love the Christmas season. What a treat. I love the reminder that Jesus entered this world backward, born in a manger in total obscurity and zero fanfare. Everything about the story of his birth makes way for the truly peculiar life he would eventually lead. His story is in stark contrast to the stories of any other HERO in any other story. On the surface, his life could read as the least triumphant narrative for a champion or a victor. Nothing really to celebrate or build traditions around.
When Jesus upended the systems and powers of his day, he did so in an illogical and nonsensical fashion. He surrendered to the State, for crimes in which he was innocent, in order to suffer for those that were actually guilty. No petitions, no FB posts, no carrying on about the injustices he was being subjected to. VERY PECULIAR INDEED.
This Christmas season, let’s fight a better fight. Let's revert our energies, money, and resources to those who really need it. There are far too many hungry, cold and vulnerable families that need this beautiful Jesus narrative more than I need my “rights” to celebrate without criticism. Let's take a page out from our friends in China and North Korea and the early church. Let’s learn how to be simply content with knowing Jesus, even when the state threatens your whole family with persecution, even unto torture and death. We are so far from that in our current climate.
SO INCREDIBLY FAR.
I feel that If we can learn to be that content then nothing could ever stop us from truly celebrating this beautiful baby Jesus. I wonder what our celebrations will look like? I bet it will look like welcoming the stranger into our homes for a meal. I bet the carols we sing will resound like never before, with the added harmony from those who haven’t sung in quite some time. I bet our festive gatherings of yuletide joy will blossom with our focus shifted more on inviting others to join in, than squabbling for our individual liberties.
Truly he taught us to love one another, his law is love and his gospel is peace.
Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother, and in his name, all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy, in grateful chorus, raise we, let all within us praise his holy name.