From the Pulpit: The other side of Christmas

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“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” We know not everyone is a fan, but we love the Christmas season. Beautiful lights spring up to ward off the growing darkness and cold. It doesn’t get much better than “Silent Night” with candles on Christmas Eve. In spite of the consumerism, most of us do think more about sharing and giving. And we have this miraculous newborn, God reaching out to us and coming into our midst in human form.

We love thinking about the bravery of Mary, the kindness of Joseph, the daring of the shepherds and the journey of the wise ones. And yet, we are aware that Christmas is not all beauty and light.

As we read the rest of the story, the arrival of Jesus was met with doubt and fear. Jesus was born into an out-of-the-way place in our world, because there was no room. Upon hearing of this arrival, the leaders (Herod) reacted with swift brutality, even to the point of being willing to slaughter the innocents in order to protect their status quo and resist God’s vision for the world.

Baby Jesus and his parents had to flee in the middle of the night to a foreign land, as homeless immigrants.

Sometimes God breaks into our lives in beautiful epiphanies of sights and sounds and realizations. In our experience, however, the gifts of God are often ignored or resisted. We know that much is not right in the world, but it is familiar. We do not want to give up control. There is much in the status quo that seems to benefit our desires, if not our souls.

Will Christmas change us, as it did the shepherds and the wise ones? Will we follow Herod, reacting by ignoring or even killing off anything that might force us to change?

In one of our hymns, we sing, “I want to walk as a child of the light. I want to follow Jesus.” Do we really? Or do we prefer just to stick with the sentimental side of Christmas? If more of us really decided to follow Jesus this year, how might that change our families, our communities and our world? What would it mean for us to live out the vision that Mary sings about in Luke 1:46-55?

This article originally ran on pantagraph.com.

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