Christmas has become the junk drawer of solstice celebration due to its immense commercial success, and non religious traditions. In that drawer, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. Churches everywhere are inviting people into this story. That’s their job and if they could, they would teleport us back to the manger so we could go deeper into its validity.
Last week I proved we are all believers. We all have faith. And if mathematics, love, and truth can exist and be known, then God must also exist and be known in a similar way. Math can be known in its esoteric theory, or in its practical application. The same for love, truth, and God. We all know something, none of us know everything, and thus we are all partial believers.
Our differences make the challenge of revealing the God of Christmas that much harder but try and give yourself to this moment.
Christians believe Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy which reads:
“For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be on his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end…” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
If the baby in the manger is God coming into the world as a man, a savior of the world, then the trajectory of this arrival (advent) is increasing peace as a result of his leadership influence. I am only aware of two approaches to making this happen.
1. Conversion. Clearly, this is the strategy of contemporary evangelical Christianity. The Christ is viewed as the king. As a king, the increase of his rule comes by acquisition. The world is divided between the occupation and the new insurgent forces. Following Jesus is seen as joining a life or death battle in which there is only one winning side. All losers, defectors, or those who will not bow to Christ’s leadership will suffer and pay the ultimate consequence. Christmas is the dawn of the ultimate power play and all of scripture is poured into this binary system of good vs evil. Salvation is seen as picking Jesus’ team. Love and peace are seen exclusively the property of those who side with Jesus’ alternative religion. Hell is literally for the rest.
2. Completion. This is the Christmas story I am consumed with exposing. The Christ is the incarnation of God into the world. Biblically speaking, the Christ has been a part of all human history, all cultures, all religions and has always interjected himself into our lives. Jesus is the perfect and complete incarnation of the Christ in human history. Perfectly God, perfectly man. His life is an historical and also archetypal lens through which all of humanity can see themselves and the purpose of their suffering. The Christ completes but does not eradicate all religions. Early Christians remained Jews, Samaritans, Greeks, and Centurions. Christ completes each individual without eradicating the individual. Salvation is not converting to an alternative religion, but the liberating process of finding our true identity in God by the cosmic work of Christ. Christ is not on either side of a binary equation, but the third, transcendent way that illuminates our very life.
The God of Christmas then is not a theological carrot dangling on a stick where we defer satisfaction for “one day.” God did not enter the world to create a fear based belief system that threatens us into behavior modification. It’s not an evacuation strategy. The God of Christmas is the awakened heart to the reality and power of love in all its expressions. The God of Christmas shows up when we give love, peace on earth, and good will toward all others. Jesus is a big deal because we see modeled for us a pattern for our humble beginnings, our service, our suffering, our loves, our oppression, our friends, our rejections, our dying, and our rising over and over again to new life. We are all a big deal, because we are each retelling this story.
For those who believe, may you believe in new ways. For those who thought you didn’t believe, may this become the day you give a name to your awakened heart. And may I suggest, if you are willing to consider this, the name of Jesus.
May you each have a Merry Christmas!