Saturday, December 11, 2010
What is Christmas about?
Christmas is about tradition. The things we were raised doing, we want to keep doing. And Christmas is one of the main times of year to keep old traditions alive that have survived at least thirty years or so. What is your Christmas about? Check the items below that apply to you:
Spending time with family
Lying to children about Santa Claus
Spending time under the mistletoe
Setting up decorations
Hopping from free meal to free meal
Arguing with friends and family
Catching Miracle on 34th Street for the twentieth time
Singing a mix of old hymns and silly songs
Eating meat and stuffing until you throw up
Spending time in the mall with thousands of others
Listening to Christmas music until you throw up
Watching A Charlie Brown Christmas for the fiftieth time
Returning gifts at the mall with thousands of others
Unfortunately, none of these things get to the heart of Christmas. They are all substitutes of the real focus of the festival. Once you dispense with this list, what is left of your Christmas? Watching re-runs of the Simpsons? Being morose because your Christmas doesn’t match up to your expectations? Or just being depressed in general, for no particular reason?
Christmas seems so important, such a significant part of our year, that it must be about something important. Of course, we all know that Christmas is supposed to be about Jesus. But that’s hard for us to really make practical as a holiday or feast. Or even to get our heads around. Jesus was a cool guy. And he taught some good things—most of which we can’t remember right now (too much egg nog, probably). But why is Christmas about him?
The Christmas Story
Well, part of Christmas is the Christmas story. Just in case you weren’t sure, the story isn’t A Christmas Carol. It’s about Jesus. Does Mary, Joseph, angels, shepherds, wise men ring a bell? Yeah, that’s the Christmas story. Well, what is that story about, anyway? Most of us know about the “peace on earth” part. But how do we get peace on earth?
The interesting thing is that the Christmas story doesn’t give us a strictly religious answer, like what we’d expect from the Bible. Instead, it gives us a political answer. That’s right, the Christmas story is about politics. It is propaganda about the kind of political system it thinks would be best. (Propaganda isn’t always bad, you know—it depends on whether it’s true and beneficial to everyone or not.) And the politics the Christmas story is recommending is to have the right ruler, the right government, and then you can have peace. That’s really not that different from an election year, really.
So what kind of ruler can give us peace? According to the Christmas story, it’s got to be somebody who knows what it’s like to be poor. At the same time, it’s got to be somebody who has authority. It’s got to be somebody who cares about the needs of the poor. But it’s still somebody who could capture the interest of the wise and wealthy. But most of all, it’s somebody who really upsets the status quo politics that makes everyone’s lives miserable. That’s why Jesus is uniquely qualified to be ruler of the world.
Jesus was born in poverty, and lived among people who had next to nothing. He drew to himself shepherds, who were rejected by “proper” society. Jesus’ mother sang a song about unimportant people ruling over everyone else. Yet Jesus drew magi more than a thousand miles—walking—to himself with rich gifts. At the same time, he had the current rival king so upset at him, that the king killed a village of babies and toddlers to get rid of him. At the same time, Jesus grew to establish laws that would benefit everyone that lived within his kingdom.
On top of all this, he received authority. He had the right to be in charge. God told everyone that Jesus was the one in charge, and that they needed to listen to him. Most people didn’t listen to God, but what else is new? Jesus still had the right to rule.
Choose Jesus as King of the World!
So why didn’t Jesus rule? Why isn’t he in charge of the world right now? Because he wants to give everyone a chance to choose him, first. (What other dictator would do that?) You see Christmas isn’t so much a holiday or gift-giving opportunity as an election. Jesus is presenting himself as a candidate for office. He want you to elect him. His platform is peace on earth and benefits for everyone who chooses him. What kind of benefits? Forgiveness of sins. The possibility of both receiving and giving love. Being content with your circumstances. Having your needs met. A life without suffering. Some pretty unbelievable campaign promises—but Jesus has a track record. Thousands, even millions of people have experienced Jesus’ kind of living. And it works, it really can give one peace.
So have you really got Christmas? It’s simple—is Jesus your king, your Lord? If you live having Jesus as your ruler, then you can experience what Christmas is really about. So how do we do that?
Read the gospels to find out what Jesus is really like. (You can start with any of them—Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Just skip the lists of names in Matthew or Luke). If the reading is too tough, then you can ask a pastor what it means to have Jesus as king (That’s what a pastor does, you know—he reads the Bible to explain it to those of us who can’t make heads or tails of it. If you don’t know a pastor you can call the phone number below.). Look at what Jesus is promising if he does rule. Look at what Jesus is demanding to see if you really want him to rule.
If you are ready, then accept Jesus as your Lord. You can pray to him, “Jesus I choose you as my King and Lord.” Or you can go to a church to get baptized (that’s the initiation ritual). Then you’ll really have Christmas. And a whole lot more.