What Christmas Means

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The message of Christmas means: that things are not what they seem, that a new world has dawned and we can be on the front edge of powerful and beautiful stuff worthy of the Maker who became like the made in order to re-make everything better than new.

As we look around us, we should be struck by the stark contrast between our relatively full and richly blessed life and the way it is for most of the world’s people.  We are on notice that it was not primarily to the likes-of-us that Jesus was given, in the first instance.  We know the first recipients of Christmas giving were poor folk, initially delighting mostly the lowly.  The good news his coming signaled was most deeply appreciated by those who were last and least.  We understand that the joy of the first Noel was not a confirmation of the fullness that a few already enjoyed (and therefore certainly not a guarantee), but a promise that the hungry were to be fed, the empty made full, the oppressed liberated, and the sad made glad by dream-come-true good news tailored specifically for the bad news situations with which most people were stuck.  And, from some vantage points it seems as though little has changed in the two millennia since. 

So, as we look around us we must deal with this fact: the joyful good news of Jesus’ coming was a threat to all whose comforts trace to sources other than the outrageous generosity that stopped at nothing for the sake of us all.  We must ask what forms of celebration would help us find joy in the gift of Jesus on its own terms and then gather us up into His continuing over-the-top generosity for the sake of others, even or especially others we do not yet know?

Then, as we look ahead, we shall insist that CNN or FOX or one of the other networks does not and cannot tell it like it is.  No, despite occasional and varied signs to the contrary—such as widening gaps between rich and poor, terror and war, economic crisis, political corruption, social/cultural degradation, environmental disasters, or some other woe—despite such signs, something did happen in the gift of this child, something decisive and sure.   Indeed, something like transformation—not just change, but transformation, comprehensive renewal, extreme makeover, is afoot!  The good news of this season will not be limited in scope to some people, but will expand and reach toward all people; it’s not suited to just one time but all time and then beyond time; and it’s not targeted merely to humans—and certainly not to some part of the human being—but all creatures great and small and every facet of creation in all of its magnificent variety.  We shall insist on it and affirm it, long and yearn and pray for it, and willingly give our lives to participate in His work to make it so.

 Immanuel must be everyone’s reality!

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