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.

And this is the Gospel expressed as simply as I know how…

Jesus, as a result of the compelling love within the Godhead, made a huge shift in the life He enjoyed and shared within the Godhead, and came to Earth in the form of a baby.

And He, now fully human, grew and lived among humans, and loved them in ways humans had never before known.

He was so free, and refreshing, and uninhibited, and so full of life, and so HUMAN, that it got Him into much trouble, in fact, it got Him killed.

Then after he was dead and buried and had gone, unbeknownst to all who despised him and wanted him gone, His faith in His father in Heaven broke the power of death itself and He rose from the dead. This unified act of love on behalf of the GodHead, which satisfied all the response God has to human rebellion, rendered death (the result of such rebellion) meaningless to all men and women, boys and girls, anywhere in the world, and for all time, who decide to live with His agenda in the forefront of thier lives.

If you want to respond to the Gospel, seek me out (or seek someone out). Join us. Find a way to come by and join a community of people who, just like you, want to find greater meaning in their lives.

Sin (human rebellion) is not smoking or drinking or cussing — the essence of sin, excuse the term but it does tells it like it is — is living in such a manner as to be showing God “the finger.” It is living as if God and all that matters to God are worth ignoring.

Who is this man?

Who is this man
upon a cross
upon a hill
Whose mother stands
to see him suffer?

Who, but a day or two before, broke bread with dear friends

And told them it was the end – of a long and beautiful friendship

At least in the form they had known it

Who is this man
upon a cross
upon a hill
Who prays forgiveness
Upon those who want to see him suffer?

And where are the adoring crowds that swarmed him, hailed him as king
Listened to his every word

There is no crowd now
only

a mother who stands to see him suffer

Who is this Jesus
upon a hill
seated and teaching
the masses
and then feeding them through dramatic display of prayer and faith
and healing the sick
and opening eyes that are blind

Who is this man, this Jesus
Who held meetings on mountains
With Prophets who’d been dead for thousands of years
Who walked on water and calmed storms
And stirred a little girl from Death to Life

And who is this Jesus
Who calls a spade a spade
And ignores the religious and respected
Preferring the company of the despised
And the rejected
And who talks to women in public
And Samaritans, in both private and public

Who is this man who can
And defy Rome
And defy the temple officials
And talk in militant terms of a Kingdom that will
Last forever
Yet be moved to tears at the death of a friend?

Why is He now upon a cross
upon a hill
forsaken
bereft
betrayed

Why is the begotten, forgotten
and left to die a criminal death
between two thives
His head and under a crown of thorns
And a purple robe across his shoulders
Both placed upon him in bitter irony and sarcasm

While his mother watched him suffer

Who is this God
The Son of Man
Up on a Cross
Up on a hill
And who are we to watch
His death, year in and year out
And go from Crib to Cross
From miracle to miracle
parable to parable
year to year
and live sometimes as though
His death were
Of little meaning

Who is this dying Saviour
Abandoned by the God He calls ABBA
Abandoned by Heaven
upon a hill
While His mother stands
to see him suffer?

He is Dead, Dead, Dead
The beloved begotten Son
Is dead – the body is limp upon the cross
The last words are uttered
And now it will be removed to a borrowed tomb

Who is this man?
Who lies in a borrowed tomb
The stone rolled shut
And sealed – and He who said He was God
Is gone…
Gone…
Gone.

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.

Easter Saturday

Easter Saturday, a little more than two thousands years ago, the first followers of Jesus hit the wall. His execution was complete; the corpse secure in a tomb and the courageous teacher was gone. He, who had done no harm, who’d loved so intimately, lived so passionately, challenged everything so profoundly and, like none before or since, practiced what he preached, was finished. Kaput. There’s little doubt that depression and dejection hung heavily in the air for his followers. They had traded all they’d had and known, to be abandoned by one who could walk on water, still storms, raise the dead but not avoid his own death on a criminal’s cross.

Then, somewhere between midnight tonight (two thousand years ago) and early the following morning, Christians believe that Jesus, if you’ll excuse the cumbersome phase, stopped being dead. He cast death aside, walked from the tomb, embraced life in an eat-fish-and-walk-through-walls body. Believe it or not, you’ve got to give it to them, Christians that is; a rebound of this nature from anyone, let alone their beloved leader, would stimulate celebration.

This pivotal weekend, Easter weekend, rekindles so much for Christians: grief, loss and grief, then exuberance. Believers, of every background and representing every cultural extreme and every ethnic diversity in every country on earth will flock to church to worship their risen Lord and proclaim death defeated. On Sunday morning they will greet each other with, “The Lord is Risen,” to hear in response, “He is Risen indeed.” What they are really saying is, “On Friday I was horrified at what was done to my Lord. Yesterday I grieved his loss. Today he’s alive and there’s hope for us all, so let’s have a party.”

Great things can be learned from Easter: deep reflection, acknowledgment of grief, fresh beginnings, unreasonable generosity and partying with abandon. Let’s all do it, Christian or not. Let’s grieve deceased family members, relationships strained or severed, our possible role in the atrocities of greed, prejudice and plundering committed across the globe. Let’s acknowledge opportunities missed and misused and deliberate to see the impact we have on others. Let’s evaluate where and how we are a part of the world’s problem rather than the solution.

The uncanny thing about Jesus is that even if you don’t, as Christians do, believe he was the Son of God, doing the things he said is still good for people. Making a fresh start with someone you haven’t seen in a long time, like a brother, sister, and an in-law who gets your goat or an estranged business partner is good for the soul, rejuvenates communities. Reconnecting with people, offering grace, space to others, letting forgiveness emerge for your harshest foes, your bitterest enemies is a movement in the opposite spirit of what is expected. It disarms explosive, stressed or polarized relationships and empties our tombs of unbelief.

Call your debtors and say something like, “I’m canceling your debt. I cannot afford to have you owe me anything.” They might not deserve your generosity but Easter is not a do-or-do-not-deserve-it time. It never was, never will be. Besides, who among us can want what they deserve without experiencing feelings of fear and trembling? It’s about getting what you do not deserve. It’s about not getting what you do. It’s about grace, about being unreasonably forgiving, wildly extravagant with kindness.

Finally, celebrate your humanity. Dance with delight at the human capacity to reflect, repent and be revived. I’ll peek into my tomb today and do what it takes to clear it of resentments, self-pity, unrighteous anger and all else that keeps me from dancing. I trust you will peek into yours, find it wonderfully empty and join me in a rich and loud celebration.