It’s Christmas time! The snow is . . . . somewhere (somewhere that is not Iowa). The decorations are out. The mall is a nightmare.
And everywhere you turn, someone, or some poster, or billboard, or TV Movie, or pet monkey (making sure you’re paying attention) is telling you about the real meaning of Christmas.
You know- the real meaning, remembering a baby born in a manger to a virgin, the star in the sky, the shepherds, the choirs of angels, and the wise men coming from afar.
With that comes the reminder to enjoy your family, remember Jesus’ birth, love one another, and care more about giving than receiving.
Not to make you all hate me, but this is almost entirely incorrect. Notice, I said almost entirely incorrect. I don’t disagree with any of these ideas – they are all good things. Therein lies the flaw. Too often we find something ‘good’ and say ‘good enough.’ If you have read any of the other Guerilla Christianity posts, you will see a theme. That theme is ‘use your brain, dig deeper.’
It is a deeply touching image to think of a new baby, heralded by a star and angels, resting in a humble barn, his parents looking on. Christian Christmas hymns are beautiful and still give me chills. The problem is that we stop there. ‘Isn’t it wonderful that Jesus came to be born in a manger?’
Why do we reflect at Christmas time on the miracle of Christ’s birth? Why do we remember to care more about giving than receiving. Why do we gather together to enjoy our families.
Why did we ever stop?
Yes, the most important feature of Christmas is the birth of Christ. Absolutely. But His birth is only important because of His life. Because of what He chose to do with the time given to Him on this earth. He was fully integrated in life. He led. He taught. He forgave. He healed. He loved. He always saw those who were unaccepted by common society. He accepted those that everyone around him urged him to ignore. He spoke the truth, even when it angered others. He provided for those who could not provide for themselves. He gave every part of himself, even his life.
Why don’t we talk about that at Christmas? Even at Easter we really only focus on His death and resurrection. Why?
I remember reading once that a hyphen was an immensely powerful piece of punctuation. The writer was referencing the hyphen between the birth and death dates on a tombstone. That hyphen that somehow represented a life. A life full of happiness, sadness, joy, longing, victory, defeat, despair, and dreams.
So, while we consider that manger scene, I urge you – don’t stop there. Life isn’t a TV movie, with a neat message delivered in a defined period. Life is messy. Life is full of lots of days that aren’t Christmas or Easter. Jesus’ life was full of many experiences that aren’t His birth and death (and resurrection – that part is actually really important).
Sing carols, read the Christmas story, attend candlelight service. Give to the poor, enjoy time with your family, stand at midnight on Christmas and look into the starry sky.
When Christmas is over, and the presents have been unwrapped, the tree is taken down, and all the decorations put away, be careful to keep those thoughts and feelings out. Don’t store them away with your Christmas baubles to dust off next November (day after Thanksgiving, not a day before).
Think about the manger. Think about the life. Think about the death and resurrection. Don’t care for those less fortunate than you at Christmas. Care for them, period. Don’t take an extra moment to reflect on your love for your family at Christmas. Do so daily. Put a note on your fridge, a reminder in your phone, whatever works.
There’s something about Christmas that seems hopeful. My hope is that we don’t forget when the decorations come down.