As the song goes, “so this is Christmas.” Why should we pause and celebrate an event that many people say never happened? Why should we even think about something other than business matters or football games? Why should this day be any different from the other days of the year?
As I think back over the many Christmas that have been a part of my life, I cannot help but think that there has never been a day when there wasn’t a war or the threat of war going on somewhere. I was born during the Korean War and I grew up on Air Force bases, constantly reminded that the threat of nuclear war was just a few moments away. There was a war in Southeast Asia that stretched almost from the time of my birth to the years that I became a father.
There have been countless wars and conflicts in Africa and the Middle East over colonial issues, territorial rights, and land ownership problems that date back to long before Christ was born in Bethlehem.
I grew up and went to school in states that required students to learn the words of the Declaration of Independence, “that all men were created equal”, and then proceeded to destroy that statement by the structure of the very schools in which it was taught. I grew up and went to church in states where we sang “Jesus loves the little children, red and yellow, black and white” and then heard the pastor proclaim that Jesus only really loved the white children. If nothing else, I learned hypocrisy real well and real early
Somewhere along the line, the birth of a child in a country occupied by a foreign power, with a tax burden that exceeded anything that one might complain of today and with a religious establishment that was more interested in its own power than it was the needs of the people, doesn’t seem to matter.
And it seems to me as I look over the years, this day has become no different than any other day. Hypocrisy in the name of the church is still alive and well. There are those who proclaim equality in the eyes of God but will not let the people with whom Jesus walked and ate with into their churches. We still have war, even when we call Jesus the Prince of Peace.
There are those today who want to put Christ back into Christmas but they are the one who cry loudest for more war and whose voices are the most hateful and vitriolic ever heard across this land. They are the ones who see Christmas as the economic salvation of this country, not the spiritual salvation of individuals.
When you hear ministers tell us that the poor get what they deserve, that their sin is the cause of the poverty and we, the people, should not take care of them, you have to wonder why they celebrate Christmas when they have forgotten what it really means.
They would have us live in a land where they, the theocratic power elite, tell us how to live but allow themselves the right to do whatever they please. They would have the right to tell us how to think but not how to find the truth.
And there are those who would tell us that this is all a myth; that it never happened and, if it did happened, it happened in March. Christmas, to these individuals, is merely a sign of the selling out of the church. Perhaps it is; perhaps Christ was really born in March or April. But when they argue about the day Christ was born or, for that matter, if He was even born, they miss the point.
This day is different because a child was born some two thousand years ago. The actual day really isn’t that important but that child grew in stature and wisdom. And when He was old enough, his parents told me who He was. And He continued to grow in stature and wisdom.
And in a political and religious environment not so much different from the one we have today, He began to teach the people, heal the people, and tell the people that they were not forgotten. And the people told other people and those people continued telling the story.
Maybe Christ wasn’t born today some two thousand years ago; maybe Christ wasn’t born at all. But something happened and that one small thing changed the course of society. It is a story that has been told over the years from one person to the next and it is the story we need to be telling today.
That is why today should be different from all the other days of the year. In a world filled with war, violence, greed, hatred, persecution and oppression, we need to stop and think about that birth and what it means to each one of us.
It was a small and to many at that time, inconsequential occurrence. But from the birth of Jesus some two thousand years ago, a movement began. Each one of us is invited today to continue that movement. One by one, little by little, what we do will take down war, violence, greed, hatred, persecution, oppression and those who profit from such acts will be destroyed. It is not important that others make this day different; it is important that each one of us make this day and tomorrow different.