Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Packing Away The Baby

After Christmas Thoughts on Christmas:

"Jesus is the reason for the season"
"We must fight this war on Christmas"
"Keep Christ in Christmas"

These are just a few of the things that I hear each year during the holiday season. They get tiresome and old to me, and the whole "war on Christmas" seems more than a bit over dramatic. Yet as we were packing away our nativity sets this week, I thought about how much I love the nativity image and the Advent season, and wondered why we couldn't just leave it up year round. I mean, Christ wasn't born on Dec. 25th... that's just the date the Church set to commemorate his birth. Ironically enough, I am worried less about people forgetting the Christ-child during Christmas than I am about them forgetting the child the remainder of the year. Shouldn't we be celebrating his birth ALL YEAR LONG?

Some would say, "but, now that Christmas is over we must look to Lent and Easter!" I would say that Christ's birth is always overshadowed by his death. Many Christians fight so hard for Baby Jesus from the day after Thanksgiving to Dec. 25th, and then by the new year are already ushering Christ to the cross. It made me think of many parent's saying, "they grow up so fast!"

But in this in-between time (between Christmas and Easter), let's think a second about "packing away the baby". I think that there is much that we need to leave unpacked for the entire year!

The Christmas story sets the overture for the life and death of Jesus in both Matthew and Luke. You can read more about it in The First Christmas, and there's a good podcast with my man, Tripp, here (interviewing the author; Crossan). This overture sets the themes of what Jesus would teach, live, and give his life for in the gospel narratives. Those themes are set up so beautifully, and placed purposefully by the authors so that when you open the gospel narratives you are faced with these vital themes up front.

Think about the themes we celebrate during Advent and Christmas:

Peace on earth
goodwill to all men (humanity)
Freedom from bondage
and much more!

Take a verse to O Holy Night:

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name
all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise
Let all within us praise His holy name.

We see the themes of peace, love, equality, brotherhood, etc... in there. It was hard to sing this verse for me this Christmas season after the 2008 events of war, politics, racism, and bigotry that drove the years biggest headlines. I watched as people sang it at the top of their lungs and wondered who they place in bondage each day; who they stole joy and peace from all of the other 364 days of the year. I am not placing myself above them, I too am guilty, but this is what I'm taking from Christmas this year!

I then thought, what if Christ had waited to be born this year? Would it be so different? I know a lot has changed since the 1st century, but then again perhaps not...
Christ was born into:
An empire
Abuse of power
Religious piety
Religious feuds
Those that have vs. those that have not

These are some of the themes of the Christmas overture. Now, here we are over 2000 years later, and, as big an impact as Christ has supposedly made in our lives, he still would be born into many of the same circumstances. When will we be able to say that, "Christ, if born today, would be born in a better world"?

How long?
How long will we sing this song?
When will we do more than simply sing?

Maybe this year, we shouldn't pack away the baby....

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