Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but for many people it’s also the most stressful. We take vacations from work, but then get very little rest. There is a lot of duality going on with Christmas these days.
For me this Christmas, I feel a mix of emotions, and I’m assuming many of you do as well. So much to be thankful for and experiencing so much joy, yet I cannot ignore the past few months of headlines. The recent events in New York have left me heavy hearted the past few days.
It’s been a year full of controversial news. Thanks to our wonderful media, everything is controversial these days. Even so, there has been a lot of national heaviness on the shoulders of our country this year. From Ferguson to NYC to the countless other headlines of 2014, we have much to consider and much to bear.
Yet in the middle of it all, I still have hope. Hope that we can do better than what we are doing. Hope that change will come.
One of the most popular Christmas carols is “O Holy Night.” You’ve probably heard it a couple dozen times already this season. My mom pointed a line out to me a few years back from the song, and it stuck with me.
“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.”
Much of my frustration this year has come from not only these top headlines, but from the responses to them. In the midst of every tragedy, there are always:
- People who wants to give their super-educated, well-informed reason why it happened
- People who believe that under their leadership the tragedy would never have happened
- People who believe that a certain race is the main cause of the problem
- People who want to sound intelligent more than they want to make a postive difference
In the end, each of those people who want to speak the loudest are usually the last people that we need saying anything.
I think the message of Christmas and the message of Christianity should not be, “Look how correct and holy we are about everything,” but instead the message of “the slave is our brother.” Standing with the hurting, the broken and the persecuted. It is the concept that every different background and every different story can be joined together into the same family.
I find it pretty funny when I see churches spending mass amounts of money on their Christmas productions when Jesus came in the cheapest, most unimpressive way possible. I’m not anti-showmanship, but I think it’s so easy to lose the heart of the story in all of the lights and smoke and relevancy we try so hard to pull off.
I know we want a nice, neat manger scene with all white people and clean shepherds, but the truth is that Jesus came into the world in a dirty, smelly stable to live with a carpenter’s family. It wasn’t a silent night. It was loud and “the little Lord Jesus no crying he makes” line sounds cute, but it’s totally off. Jesus came like any other baby—crying. Mary was screaming in child pain. The animals were probably stinking up the place almost as bad as the shepherds who never bathed were. They laid him in a manger, complete with animal spit.
That is the Christmas story. The perfect Savior of the world stepped into the world to become like dirty, broken people. He chose to link up with us. He made the slave his brother. One of the first recorded lines that Jesus ever said to anyone was that he came to bring good news to the poor, freedom to prisoners and sight to the blind.
This Christmas, I hope we are reminded of the humility of the Jesus we are singing about. I hope we think about how poor his family was. I hope we think about who was invited to see him the night of his birth. I hope we think about the type of people he ministered to. I hope we think about the forgotten citizens of Israel that he healed. And I hope that we remember who he is calling us to.
When we see stories of families hurting in our country and all over the world, if our initial reaction is to speak our mind and fall into any of the bullet points above, then I fear we have completely missed the message of Christmas.