One of the things that makes us human is our ability to discern the differences in things. I would suspect that one of the reasons the Preacher was able to write “to everything there is a season” was that he could see the passage of time in the seasons of the year.
We know that this is the winter season because the signs of the world around us tell us that it is winter time. The beginning of shorter days, colder temperatures, animals beginning to prepare for hibernation, etc., all are signs that winter is upon us.
In the same way, we know that this is the Christmas season. Unfortunately, the signs of Christmas seem to be appearing earlier and earlier ever year and these signs seem to have taken on an almost apocalyptic overtone.
They speak of economic disaster if we do not buy Christmas presents, forgetting that the first Christmas presents were given to the Christ child, not received by those who came to see the new-born baby.
The signs of Christmas today speak more about who we are today and less and less about what we can be tomorrow. There are those who speak of a “war on or against Christmas”, and to some extent, they are correct. There are those whose idea of Christmas is limited to what they want and who seem to forget that the primary visitors to the new-born baby were societal outcasts and foreign nationals (and individuals who spent their lives seeking new answers rather than accepting as unchanging answers that possibly do not work).
In a world where power is measured by one’s economic and social status, it is hard to imagine a child born in the most minimal setting being the One and True King. This child has no true power, no money, no retinue to do his bidding or will so how can he be the true King?
We speak of the Prince of Peace being born and yet we continue to live in a world where violence and warfare dominate. We are so attuned to this world and this way of life that we fail to realize that its only conclusion is the destruction of the world in which we live. We are so attuned to this world and its way of life that we fail to realize that allowing only a few people to have all the money and wealth can only create conditions where violence and warfare are the only solutions.
We live in a world where a small group seek to maintain control by keeping those with common interests from coming together. When groups of individuals hate, or at the minimum, fear other groups of individuals, those in power remain in power. And sooner or later, this too will lead to the destruction of the world.
The signs of Christmas do not bode well for the future. And the signs that tell us what season it is are not good signs at all.
But, there is one good sign. It is that a small child was born some two thousand years ago, in a non-descript setting in a backwater town that virtually no one even knew existed. But it was enough of a birth to disturb the powerful. And as this young child would grow into an adult, He would begin to change the world in ways that the world could not understand (and obviously does not understand today).
When asked one time how one should treat one’s neighbor, Jesus spoke of ways that ran counter to accepted social policies, “ask what you would want people to do for you and then do that for them.” It works this way – just because there are people who feel that they have the right to treat others in negative ways does not give you the right to do the same in return.
He said to turn the other cheek when someone struck you, to give your second cloak when someone demands your first, to walk the extra mile when commanded to walk one mile. Time and time again, His way was a different way of life. Some got it, others didn’t; some came to understand it; others never will.
There are those who have taken the title “Christian” but have chosen to live a life of exclusion, hatred, and violence. That is not the Way and it never was. The hymn says that they will know we are Christians by our love, not our hatred.
I know that the coming months are going to be hard but I know that with Christ the central part of my life, I am going to stare directly into the face of hatred and evil, smile and say that God loves you no matter what.
I know that the traditional mission of the followers of Christ was to go out into the world and make disciples of all the people. But that didn’t mean beat them over the head with a stick until they accepted Christ.
But how are we to do that, make disciples of everyone. Since disciples can be taken to mean students, we are to teach them about Christ and what Christ did. And it must be a lesson that is done outside the classroom, not inside.
When Jesus began His ministry, He spoke of bring sight to the blind, of feeding the hungry, of bringing aid and comfort to the sick and afflicted, and freeing the oppressed. There is, if you will a concrete and an abstract view of this mission statement. But you cannot achieve the abstract if you do not have the concrete.
Our task is to put the words of Christ into action. This is a season of new hopes and new beginnings, it is a season that begins with us.
Peace to you, peace to all your friends, and peace for the season.