Christmas is about love, not power
I have not noticed much ado about “Happy Holidays” versus “Merry Christmas” this year. I don’t see it as a big issue. After all, as a Christian, I do a lot of things that are not directly connected to Jesus. My front deck is lit up with a wreath, garlands, strings of lights, and lit-up icicles. I like multicolored lights, and the wreath and garlands have those kinds of lights. That’s how we lit our Christmas tree when I was a kid in the 1950’s - all eight bulbs on a series string.
In my retirement I have time for a daily morning workout. That consists of a short walk to the horse barn near my house and about forty-five minutes of horse chores. And as I leave my house, I can’t resist overriding the timer, and turning on the Christmas lights so that I walk away from my house seeing my front deck all ablaze.
Is Jesus in that? I suppose I can say it reminds me that Jesus is the light of the world, but that’s as far as it goes. It’s a convoluted path from this to loving my neighbor as myself.
Furthermore, if I get on a bandwagon to “put Jesus into Christmas” I can end up at a precipice that is really counter-productive to finding Jesus at Christmas. That is because if I shout “Jesus is the reason for the season!” too loudly I might be really saying to another person “I do Christmas better than you.”
That could easily bring the retort of Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’ “The Christmas Carol”: “Nephew!...keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.”
From that story, we can easily think that Scrooge’s problem is stinginess, but it’s really deeper than that. When we look at the language of the “pre-repentance” Scrooge it is clear that he sees himself as being above other people. He sees himself as a person of power.
In contrast to Jesus, Jesus never projected himself as a person of power. Jesus entered the human realm as a helpless baby needing to have his diapers changed and depending on Mary’s breasts for food. In his roughly three years of ministry, he placed himself on level ground with sinners. The only people he put down were the self-righteous Pharisees who essentially said “We do religion better than everybody else.”
It is interesting that both Scrooge and Jesus had a judgment day. We all know the story of how Scrooge met the three spirits, and from that experience he could see what kind of a person he really was. He believed, and he changed his life. In Matthew 4 and Luke 4 it is recorded that Jesus met three temptations that had to do with power for self-gain. Jesus rejected all three. In this judgment day he revealed his nature and the nature of the Kingdom of God. It is not rule by power, but rule by love.
I don’t think Jesus would settle for just putting him into Christmas. Every time we engage another person we have a judgment day. We have a chance to say “No” to rule by power and “Yes” to rule by love.
That is not as easy as we may think. If a terrorist threatens our workplace, and we have some means to stop it, we should do so, even if it means killing the terrorist. To not act within our means in this situation is to love the terrorist more than our co-workers.
But, at the cross, Jesus loved terrorists. As God, Jesus can love one person without diminishing his love for another person.
Most of the time we are not called on to choose between love and restraining another person. So let’s do better than just putting Jesus in Christmas. Let’s put Jesus in every engagement with another person. Will we engage by power or by love?
John Torgerson - Christmas 2015