How to have a more authentic Christmas

Are you longing for a more “authentic” Christmas? Do you want to return to its real meaning, identify with Jesus more than you see done in the surrounding culture?

I have a few suggestions to facilitate your desire. Granted, this is not easy as we do not live in a territory occupied by a foreign power whose representative despises locals and is especially violent toward infant boys after getting wind that one will be born who will be greater than he.

In your journey to be in touch with the birth of the Christ-child, start by walking to Chicago, Cleveland or Cincinnati. Take a donkey (or ride a camel) to St Louis. Wherever you choose to go, plan to arrive by Christmas Eve. Have at least one very pregnant teen-ager (a non-relative) of about 13 or 14 in your party.

The ride, the discomfort, the lack of certainty about accommodations and the welfare of mother and baby along the way will enhance your appreciation of the season and sharpen your perceptions of how ridiculously off-target are our current traditions with sterile stables, plastic donkeys, unbounded shopping and a world hung with mistletoe.

Take no money. Be prepared to be turned away by family and motel managers alike. You are accompanied by a pregnant, delusional teen who, apart from being no one’s wife, claims “innocence” regarding the pregnancy. Her claim that an angel said she’d conceive a child by God more than alienates your party from usual societal pleasantries, and you end up with a makeshift accommodation between two Dumpsters at the rear of a very cheap motel.

On the journey, chat here and there about the political leader who slaughters all the boys in the Midwest. He has spurts of uncontrolled power and an inordinate degree of submission from the troops who carry out his wishes. Remind yourself that for weeks, months and years to come, parents will mourn endlessly over the loss of their infant boys.

You get to successfully hide your infant from the brutal eye of the murderous leader, but this is little consolation, for although you are very grateful that the baby will not be murdered as an infant, you can hardly dispel the knowledge that he will, nonetheless, be ruthlessly murdered as an adult.

As you choose a parking lot behind a motel in South Bend or Toledo, reflect on the oddness of the child’s conception and the rumor you hear that he will “save” people from their sins. This thought both encourages and disturbs you. You literally fall to the ground and worship a God who has given such a privilege while remaining aware of how those who seek no salvation usually treat self-proclaimed saviors.

The cattle are lowing, yes, but have you ever spent the night with an ox? Have you noticed how much distance you keep from the animals at the state fair? There’s good reason for that. Somehow the lowly manger has become a sanitized, cozy corner. Live in a Dumpster, add a few stray farm animals and let a few wild goats, dogs and rats enter regularly from stage left and stage right, and you are more likely to create something of the environment of the first Christmas.

Let there be no gifts, no tree, no glitter. Christmas earmarks the beginning of the second phase of a remarkably courageous journey of love, adventure and commitment on behalf of a determined God. The gift is in the risk. The value is in the danger. The generosity is in the sheer lunacy that God constantly loves a recalcitrant humanity.

The UPS truck arriving at your door with a gift from Aunt Joan in Ohio does nothing to reflect the spirit of generosity that was evident with the coming of the Christ-child unless Aunt Joan has given everything she ever owned or valued, and, at the cost of her life, packed it off to you for Christmas.

Advertisements

Adult Jesus Ruins Christmas Shopping

If Jesus would remain a baby, I would find Christmas shopping much easier. But every time I venture out to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child, by purchasing a gift for someone I love, I am stumped. I do not know what kind of gift to buy that will somehow declare the birth of the Son of God. I do not have the where-with-all for a gift that marks the birth of a King. Besides, every time I begin to shop in honor of Baby Jesus, I see him whipped unmercifully upon a cross. Nothing so confuses my shopping at Christmas than the sight of blood spilling from his side and, although I resist the thought, it will not go away.

Before I can do much looking around the malls, Jesus jumps out of the crib, fully adult, onto the streets in front of me and I can hardly keep up with him. He’s healing people and getting into all kinds of trouble with medical experts. I am lost about what to do. Besides, any free moment he goes to the wrong places. He goes to the seedy parts of town. He goes to places I have never been before. He mixes with rejected people. He goes to City Hall and hurls insults at those in leadership who are without mercy.

Downtown, he is outspoken and scathing to those who are unfair in their business practices no matter who they are or what positions they hold. Jesus detests double standards and addresses them at every encounter.

I want to shove him back in the crib where he was safe. I want him back in the crib where we were all safer. Then, just when I thought he would stop in at a church or two – perhaps a cathedral built in his honor – he’s off into a bar befriending losers. He’s talking politics in a way I have never heard. He’s talking about fairness and justice and mercy and truth. I want to tell him not to mix politics and religion but I hold my tongue and blush with the absurdity of it all.

If he would just stay in one place like a baby should is all I can think.

It’s not long before he gains in popularity and I am in a jostle with the crowds for his attention. But it’s not the kind of popularity I was expecting. I will never be able to get a gift at this rate. Prostitutes love him. Drunks run to his defense. The poorest of the poor are out in their masses. He dances in the streets with children and people he has only just met. Young men and women with piercings all over their bodies form a circle with him, and they celebrate like long lost friends, reunited. Then, instead of heeding the city ordinances and honoring the local businesses, he feeds the entire crowd by some miraculous display.

Now what do I buy? Clearly, anything I spend on any gift, if I am really out to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child has to be grand. Yet it has to be modest. His birth couldn’t have been more modest: a shed was the delivery room, an animal feeding trough, the crib. Secrecy, shame and danger were the backdrop of this dramatic night while poverty dictated the details. So I cannot spend much. Yet it was the greatest night the earth had ever seen. It was the greatest moment in all history. It was the night angels sighed! It was the night the hosts of heaven longed to witness; the night the order of everything was disturbed forever by Love’s intervention.

I try to tell him he’s ruining things: that he is too quick to befriend the wrong people. Clearly his mind is elsewhere. I plead with him to befriend the religious and civic leaders but he will not listen. Soon, as if to prove me right, they are up in arms against him. Everybody who is anybody wants him gone. They call him a hindrance to tourism, a threat to peace and they accuse him of not attending church!

Next he’s looking crucifixion in the eye.

If only he would remain a baby. It is so much easier to shop for a baby.

I think of Mary, and Jesus, at Christmas……

I imagine, Mary, that it was a difficult birth. All those miles journeyed so late in a pregnancy did not make things easier. Of course there’s nowhere for you to stay, the man you are with is not your husband. You say the child is not his. What else are people to do but hold the door firmly closed and send you on your way?

Here he is, Mary, the baby God promised. In your joy and pain there is no relief as guests who have traveled long distances stand in line to pay homage to the baby as if to a king. I should imagine Mary, that there is a little resentment toward you from some quarters, all this attention for a woman of questionable morals.

I am sure that it was a difficult childhood, Jesus. Being young and studious can be a tiring combination. Feeling called, appointed, anointed, intimate with God and so at home in the temple could infuriate men in search of the God you claim to know. The tongues surely wagged declaring you illegitimate. “Who’s your father,” I bet they taunted, “We know our father is Abraham, but who is your father.” It must have gotten a little old Jesus, even when you were so very young.

I know it was a difficult career. You faced extremes at every turn. Ostracism here, worship there. I cannot imagine the pressure you endured from religious quarters. Turning water to wine, healing the blind, raising the dead, multiplying food, walking on water and calming storms I would have thought would increase your popularity but largely it had the opposite effect. How much good can you do before those who pride themselves on knowing God become a little edgy? Demonstrating the power of God through working miracles can get a person in trouble rather quickly. Perhaps you should have known better.

I know friendships were troublesome for you. I’m sure it was a difficult day when you looked into the eyes of a friend, a very close friend, and found yourself looking into the eyes of your betrayer. There he was pointing you out in the garden and then, to rub salt into the wound, doing it with a kiss. Those who had come to seize and accuse you, place you on trial were taken aback at your composure, your presence, your attitude, despite all you knew about what was in store for you. Where did you get the faith Jesus?

I cannot imagine what it was like to be so widely wanted dead. Religious leaders wanted you out of the way. Political leaders accused you of disturbing the peace. Then, fancy this, they join forces in some weird alliance to get you. Then, the Enemy also wanted you dead. You showed him no tolerance, wouldn’t take his bribe; you wouldn’t join forces or share power. You just wouldn’t demonstrate any flexibility Jesus, not on any front, even for a moment.

Finally, and surely most painfully, God wanted you dead as atonement for sin. It’s no wonder, Jesus, that you perspired blood and pleaded for the removal of the cup that was before you.

After all you went through I cannot imagine what it was like to be brought back to life. Appearing to your beloved friends, your mother, your brothers and sisters and hundreds of people must have brought you all joy enough to party in the streets. The added bonus was that now, death itself, was dead.

I cannot imagine Mary, what it was like to be his mother. As surely as you knew water would become wine you knew the crib would become a cross. You also knew that despite all the pain and drama, the sealed tomb would open and the risen Christ would declare to the world once more, that God is intimately invested in the affairs of humanity and the details of every life.

Chirstmas shopping would be so much easier if Jesus would remain a baby….

If Jesus would remain a baby, I would find Christmas shopping much easier. But every time I venture out to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child, by purchasing a gift for someone I love, I am stumped. I do not know what kind of gift to buy that will somehow declare the birth of the Son of God. I do not have the where-with-all for a gift that marks the birth of a King. Besides, every time I begin to shop in honor of Baby Jesus, I see him whipped unmercifully upon a cross. Nothing so confuses my shopping at Christmas than the sight of blood spilling from his side and, although I resist the thought, it will not go away.

Before I can do much looking around the malls, Jesus jumps out of the crib, fully adult, onto the streets in front of me and I can hardly keep up with him. He’s healing people and getting into all kinds of trouble with medical experts. I am lost about what to do. Besides, any free moment he goes to the wrong places. He goes to the seedy parts of town. He goes to places I have never been before. He mixes with rejected people. He goes to City Hall and hurls insults at those in leadership who are without mercy.

Downtown, he is outspoken and scathing to those who are unfair in their business practices no matter who they are or what positions they hold. Jesus detests double standards and addresses them at every encounter.

I want to shove him back in the crib where he was safe. I want him back in the crib where we were all safer. Then, just when I thought he would stop in at a church or two – perhaps a cathedral built in his honor – he’s off into a bar befriending losers. He’s talking politics in a way I have never heard. He’s talking about fairness and justice and mercy and truth. I want to tell him not to mix politics and religion but I hold my tongue and blush with the absurdity of it all.

If he would just stay in one place like a baby should is all I can think.

It’s not long before he gains in popularity and I am in a jostle with the crowds for his attention. But it’s not the kind of popularity I was expecting. I will never be able to get a gift at this rate. Prostitutes love him. Drunks run to his defense. The poorest of the poor are out in their masses. He dances in the streets with children and people he has only just met. Young men and women with piercings all over their bodies form a circle with him, and they celebrate like long lost friends, reunited. Then, instead of heeding the city ordinances and honoring the local businesses, he feeds the entire crowd by some miraculous display.

Now what do I buy? Clearly, anything I spend on any gift, if I am really out to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child has to be grand. Yet it has to be modest. His birth couldn’t have been more modest: a shed was the delivery room, an animal feeding trough, the crib. Secrecy, shame and danger were the backdrop of this dramatic night while poverty dictated the details. So I cannot spend much. Yet it was the greatest night the earth had ever seen. It was the greatest moment in all history. It was the night angels sighed! It was the night the hosts of heaven longed to witness; the night the order of everything was disturbed forever by Love’s intervention.

I try to tell him he’s ruining things: that he is too quick to befriend the wrong people. Clearly his mind is elsewhere. I plead with him to befriend the religious and civic leaders but he will not listen. Soon, as if to prove me right, they are up in arms against him. Everybody who is anybody wants him gone. They call him a hindrance to tourism, a threat to peace and they accuse him of not attending church!

Next he’s looking crucifixion in the eye.

If only he would remain a baby. It is so much easier to shop for a baby.