Christmas is a “do it yourself” celebration. That is, it’s up to us to make of it what we will. We can ignore it, avoid it, dismiss it, doubt it, or celebrate it to the fullest. We can listen for the song of the angels singing, “Glory to God in the highest and on Earth, peace…” Or, we can just tune out the sounds of merriment. When the celebration dies down and the baby in the manger grows up, we can turn a deaf ear to the things He said, or we can look at our lives through the lens of His teachings. Everything Jesus said did not bring comfort and joy. We can become so preoccupied with lesser things that we don’t hear what the angels are saying.
Much of what Jesus said disturbed the conventional mindset, jarred their complacency and served as a catalyst for change. He asked them to pray for their enemies and turn the other cheek. These are the words that are easily ignored. Our culture has a wonderful time with the theme of the Nativity, but we find many of the words of Jesus “hard to swallow”. It would be much easier if he had stayed in the stable or the temple.
One night, Nickodemus, a member of the Supreme Court, or Sanhedrin, came to see Jesus. In the course of conversation, Jesus told him that he needed a new birth. It stopped Nick in his tracks. What’s this new birth all about? How can I go back to my mother’s womb? He missed the point of turning over a new leaf and changing his ways. Who wants to change their behavior pattern?
“Religiosity” is a sure way to avoid God. “Doing religion”—repeated creeds, defending the literal interpretation of Scripture, going through certain rituals—is a sure-fire hindrance to living the gospel in everyday life where behaviors, speech and decisions are made. Some people are so push about their religion that it turns off other people. Don’t misunderstand me; I like good liturgy, meaningful creeds and rituals. But they don’t need to take the place of putting faith into practice.
More and more people are claiming to be “spiritual” rather than religious. There are many reasons for this. The first is the fact that Jesus himself clashed with the “religious” people of his day. The theologians, priests and law-givers are the ones who murdered him. Those who accepted him were the drunkards, lepers and the prostitutes.
Enlightenment, or salvation, is not something we do. It is something that is done to us when we become free of all prejudices, judgments, labels and hatred. No one has a corner on God’s love. While the church/synagogue is important, too many church services can become a substitute for real spirituality. It’s not what we say or believe, but what we do that matters. We make Christianity a system of rewards and punishment rather than liberation and transformation. Our egos try to be in control of the mind, wanting us to believe that we have the right answers and we simply cannot be wrong (like those “other” people). In other words, we would be quick to say that we believe God is love and justice. And then, we turn right around and make a slurring racial remark, which is akin to hating what God has created. People are being killed every day over differences of race and religion. Our longest war seems to be based mostly on “ideological” differences”.
Why can’t we just let people be who they are? “Red or yellow, black or white, they are precious in His sight.” Why do we even have to judge at all? It doesn’t change anyone or anything for the better. I guess what I’m saying is that we need to die to the illusions about ourselves and take on a new life in the name of a peaceful, loving God.
Maybe this is not your usual Christmas message. I didn’t mean it to be. But these thoughts have been in my heart lately, and I needed to express them. The “Word” becomes flesh in us; in our language, in our business transactions, in our daily choices, in our marriage and in all of our relationships. We need to discover the oceanic love of God and share it, not merely through these “holy” days (and to some, hectic days), but every day. Stop and think about the song of angels and what you can do to promote “peace on Earth, goodwill toward others”. And, by all means, have a Merry, Merry Christmas! Amen.