Christmas Eve 2004

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate, and to everyone else, all the best for the holiday season.

Or not.

Christmas can be a huge drag. Not this year for me, and I am thankful because like everyone else, I’ve endured Christmas holidays that have been very different. Christmas, with all of its glittery expectations, is a festival designed for disappointment and quiet despair. It reminds us that we’re alone, that our families are dysfunctional, that someone we love may not be around next year, that times are tough. “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men”? We wish the loudmouth Jesus-lovers who spout these sentiments would actually live by them.

Which is why I was so delighted by this article, written by an Anglican priest for Sojourners.

Our culture loves a sentimental Christmas… The words often paint an idyllic picture of sanitary bliss… (and the) danger of sentimentality is that we tend to lose interest in the parts of the story that are not so comfortable. We smile at the warm cozy nativity scene, but have you ever spent a night in a barn? Or given birth in a barn? The reality is very different. Most scholars suggest that in Luke’s account it’s not just that the inns were full but that Mary and Joseph were forced to take the barn because their family had rejected them. Joseph has relatives or friends of relatives in Bethlehem. So rather than being received hospitably by family or friends, Joseph and Mary have been shunned. Family and neighbors are declaring their moral outrage at the fact that Joseph would show up on their doorsteps with his pregnant girlfriend.

Herod has all the male infants in Bethlehem murdered… But we don’t want to think about Herod. Van Horn calls him the “Ebenezer Scrooge without the conversion, the Grinch without a change of heart.” We Christians like to talk about putting Christ back into Christmas, but let’s not forget to put Herod back into Christmas.

Jesus was born an outcast, a homeless person, a refugee, and finally he becomes a victim to the powers that be. Jesus is the perfect savior for outcasts, refugees, and nobodies.

So, for those of you who are having a Merry Christmas this year, cherish it. For those who aren’t, take comfort in the fact that you are at least having a real one. You belong to that special club of people

… who in their weakness become a sign for the world of the wisdom and power of God.

May all your flowers bloom.