Christ is Christmas

As we come to the end of our time of preparation and expectantly wait for Jesus to enter the world on Christmas, I’ve been spending some time reflecting on the state of this blessed occasion in our world today. Christmas…it’s a word that for millions brings joy, excitement, and fond memories. The excitement of waking up and finding presents under the tree, of Christmas dinner, and cookies.  But, to quote Justin Elmers, “Christmas is no longer Christmas, but is Commercialismas” (yes, that’s a made up word… roll with it).

The truth is, Christmas is supposed to be about the birth of Jesus, the coming of Immanuel, God with us.  Yet today, it seems as if everything needs to be scrubbed and edited in order to avoid “offending” those who may not agree or believe.  To have a little fun (and to make my point), I share with you this version of the birth of Christ, by John Leo.

And Joseph went up from Galilee to Bethlehem with Mary, his espoused wife, who was great with child. And she brought forth a son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.

And the angel of the Lord spoke to the shepherds and said, "I bring you tidings of great joy. Unto you is born a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." "There's a problem with the angel," said a Pharisee who happened to be strolling by. As he explained to Joseph, angels are widely regarded as religious symbols, and the stable was on public property where such symbols were not allowed to land or even hover. "And I have to tell you, this whole thing looks to me very much like a Nativity scene," he said sadly. "That's a no-no, too."

Joseph had a bright idea. "What if I put a couple of reindeer over there near the ox and ass?" he said, eager to avoid sectarian strife. "That would definitely help," said the Pharisee, who knew as well as anyone that whenever a savior appeared, judges usually liked to be on the safe side and surround it with deer or woodland creatures of some sort. "Just to clinch it, throw in a candy cane and a couple of elves and snowmen, too," he said. "No court can resist that."

Mary asked, "What does my son's birth have to do with snowmen?" "Snowpersons," cried a young woman, changing the subject before it veered dangerously toward religion. Off to the side of the crowd, a Philistine was painting the Nativity scene. Mary complained that she and Joseph looked too tattered and worn in the picture. "Artistic license," he said. "I've got to show the plight of the haggard homeless in a greedy, uncaring society in winter," he quipped. "We're not haggard or homeless. The inn was just full," said Mary. "Whatever," said the painter.

Rum pa pum pum. Two women began to argue fiercely. One said she objected to Jesus' birth "because it privileged motherhood." The other scoffed at virgin births, but said that if they encouraged more attention to diversity in family forms and the rights of single mothers, well, then, she was all for them. "I'm not a single mother," Mary started to say, but she was cut off by a third woman who insisted that swaddling clothes are a form of child abuse, since they restrict the natural movement of babies.

With the arrival of 10 child advocates, all trained to spot infant abuse and manger rash, Mary and Joseph were pushed to the edge of the crowd, where arguments were breaking out over how many reindeer (or what mix of reindeer and seasonal sprites) had to be installed to compensate for the infant's unfortunate religious character. An older man bustled up, bowling over two merchants, who had been busy debating whether an elf is the same as a fairy and whether the elf/fairy should be shaking hands with Jesus in the crib or merely standing to the side, jumping around like a sports mascot. "I'd hold off on the reindeer," the man said, explaining that the use of asses and oxen as picturesque backdrops for Nativity scenes carries the subliminal message of human dominance. He passed out two leaflets, one denouncing manger births as invasions of animal space, the other arguing that stables are "penned environments" where animals are incarcerated against their will. He had no opinion about elves or candy canes.

Signs declaring "Free the Bethlehem 2" began to appear, referring to the obviously exploited ass and ox. Someone said the halo on Jesus' head was elitist. Mary was exasperated. "And what about you, old mother?" she said sharply to an elderly woman. "Are you here to attack the shepherds as prison guards for excluded species, maybe to complain that singing in Latin identifies us with our Roman oppressors, or just to say that I should have skipped patriarchal religiosity and joined some dumb new-age goddess religion?" "None of the above," said the woman, "I just wanted to tell you that the Magi are here."

Sure enough, the three wise men rode up. The crowd gasped, "They're all male!" And "Not very multicultural!" "Balthasar here is black," said one of the Magi. "Yes, but how many of you are gay or disabled?" someone shouted. A committee was quickly formed to find an impoverished LGTBQ+ wise-person among the halt and lame of Bethlehem.

A calm voice said, "Be of good cheer, Mary, you have done well and your son will change the world." At last, a sane person, Mary thought. She turned to see a radiant and confident female face. The woman spoke again: "There is one thing, though. Religious holidays are important, but can't we learn to celebrate them in ways that unite, not divide? For instance, instead of all this business about 'Gloria in Excelsis Deo,' why not just 'Season's Greetings'?" Mary said, "You mean my son has entered human history to deliver the message, 'Hello, it's winter'?" "That's harsh, Mary," said the woman. "Remember, your son could make it big in midwinter festivals, if he doesn't push the religion thing too far. Centuries from now, in nations yet unborn, people will give each other pricey gifts and have big office parties on his birthday. That's not chopped liver." "Let me get back to you," Mary said.

It’s interesting that the people who seem to want to sanitize Christmas are the same ones who have bumper stickers and social media posts telling everyone to “coexist.”  I find it amusing that Christians are told to “coexist,” as if Jesus didn’t preach that message throughout his ministry.  “Love your neighbor as yourself”, “What you do for the least of these,” and on and on.  Don’t get me wrong, I know we’re still not there, we need to work on loving one another and serving one another, but I think those who want us to “coexist” really want us to stop being us…stop being Christian, and just be like everyone else.

We’re not like everyone else.  We’re different, we’re set apart.  We are a royal priesthood.  We are children of the darkness who have seen a great light.  And we should never hid that light.  No matter what the world says, we have to be children of the God that was born of the Virgin Mary in that small town of Bethlehem.  We should not, we cannot, and we will not hide that light.  We are called to make disciples for the transformation of the world, not to be transformed by it.

Our salvation was sealed that night, the moment God became man in the form of a baby. The world can do what they want with Christmas, but they can never take that away from us.

Merry Christmas!

Pastor David

1 Comment

Gene - December 21st, 2022 at 12:29pm

Love the story, reminds me of the one about what Noah would have to deal with if he built the Ark today.