Merry Christmas to All… Peace on Earth and goodwill to those we like? Or, something like that?
Well, another year of holiday festivities is underway and, in the spirit of the season, we’ve got lights, trees and wonder… all going 24/7, as find ourselves deep into exclamations of joy, celebratory eating, gift exchange and gift return. Christmas fever… it’s ON!
Many of us have been decking the halls for days and days and, quite frankly, we may be in need of a little reflective downtime.
Yes, tis indeed the season to be jolly.
At least it is for those of us who exist in the category of “ones for whom this season mostly fits the paradigm.” For the many of us who manage to handle all of the various challenges that the Christmas season, in all of its pomp and commerce oriented glory, sets on our societal tables, we either exult, suffer through or find our way with luck and good cheer to New Years Eve, where we can make the resolution to do it much better next year.
It would be far too easy to simply comment on the disparity of connection between Christmas “the event we SAY we are celebrating”, and the practices that come due when we hear those bells jingling so merrily at every mall and shopping center around he nation. It does, after all mean jobs and a fresh wave of employment from Black Friday till the end of December.
And I certainly will not be the first or the last to call attention to the issue of how closely this resembles the man whose name we claim to hold at the center of the celebration.
This year, almost more than any other, it seems to be more of a challenge to hear and see how the angels song of peace and joy is resonating in the populace. Love is not the only thing in the air.
I noticed recently, influenced perhaps by the election of Donald Trump as our next president, that one brand of Christians, notably a great many conservatives and more than a few who identify as evangelicals, have taken to celebrating a new found joy of being able to say, “Merry Christmas”, as opposed to the phrase “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings”. The freedom they feel seems to be focused on the joyful fact that they are now about relieving themselves of the necessity to spend time and effort having to think about the fact that everyone in America is not “who they are.”
And in truth, it must be said that, as with other religions and faith traditions, all Christians are not of the same stripe, opinion or worldview.)
Without getting into a lengthy diatribe about the lack of inclusiveness, the fault-lines of scarcity of thoughtful engagement or the miss guided anger over “PC,” inherent in that thinking (as if, having to consider the fact that we live in a diverse society of religions and backgrounds, I will point out that this victim perspective of modern day Christians, in America, tires me greatly. I even had one visitor to my Facebook page tell me that having to say “Happy Holidays” robbed him of the joy of his Christian heritage. Really? I find myself wondering how such a shallow faith have any joy at all? That you actually have to consider the feelings of others in the celebration of the birth of one who is famous for having come to love, heal the sick, liberate the captive and set people free?
In this time, I find myself wanting to reflect that, unlike so many of what I call “Christians without compassion,” Jesus set a high standard for inclusiveness and for politically being on the side of the oppressed and the underclass in his society. I think that we would be wise to follow that example as well as His demonstrated ability to consider “the other” in his daily life, more fully in ours.
This morning I saw an article in the Huffington Post and it made me smile. Obviously, Jesus did not identify himself as a political operative. But the views expressed in his life and the words attributed to him, are hard to ignore.
Jesus, by his very example, was indeed, a socialist, in the sense that he was working for and concerned about the good of all. He was into sharing and collaboration (a quality that our Congress would be wise to adopt) and he certainly made a point of connecting with people of different backgrounds as he negotiated his mission on earth. As I listen to the rhetorical gobbledegoop and endless prosperity based messages from so many leaders and followers who describe themselves as “part of God’s family, it’s not hard to see that this a heavily overlooked, ignored and mostly unmentioned fact that goes unacknowledged in circles that praise, repeat and in my opinion, overuse and commodify Jesus’ name.
Not only that, but Jesus was a vigorous opponent of prejudice, injustice, race and religious hatred, a champion of the poor and an outspoken public activist. (He spoke truth to power with frequency!) That being the case, guess who ought to be speaking out against those very same issues now?
I attended a conference, some years ago, where a very wise and articulate speaker (I wish I remembered his name) said “If everybody who calls out the name of Jesus and who says they are “a Christian” REALLY took his words and actions and lived them out, the world would be a VERY different place.”
Sadly, too many followers are “Christians in Name Only!”
Oh and, yeah, as an after-thought, his actions and words got him killed! Apparently, people in power prefer to stay there.
Jesus was a wise and wondrous teacher. And perhaps, with each passing year, we need to use this holiday to review what the man at the center of the celebration was all about and really work at passing out the peace!