Friday, 20 November 2015
In our pain-ridden world, how can we think about Christmas?
The slaughter of young children.
A tyrannical, paranoid leader.
Families fleeing to cling onto a remnant of safety.
Fear and corruption.
Violence and extremism.
Into this world, so similar to today, a baby was born in a little town in the Middle East called Bethlehem. The power-crazed leader, so jealous for his throne, set his soldiers the bloodthirsty task of slaughtering every boy under two years old. To save their son's life, the family fled to Egypt where they lived until the reign of terror ended when King Herod the 'Great' died.
Jesus was a refugee. When I see the photographs of desperate parents, arms wrapped as tight as they can be around their young ones, I look into their traumatised eyes and imagine the eyes of his mother, Mary. Jesus was born into a world of fear and he grew up under Roman rule as an 'outsider'. It wasn't like the Christmas carols tell us. It was a violent world, full of war, death and terror.
It was like our world.
And Jesus came into that world to love the ones nobody else loved. He arrived on the scene to point terrified people to a peace that they could find even when war was raging around them. He touched the diseased, dirty ones that others walked past, holding their noses. He brought hope into the lives of the ones who never even knew hope existed for people like themselves. He shocked by teaching his followers to love the very people who hate them. He talked of a different way to live - a way that brought life even though death was a reality. He brought freedom to a world trapped in dictatorships and persecution. He called the children to him. He spoke out against the hypocrites. He loved the fraudsters and the sex workers into a new dignity.
And who are we, his church? We are his body. That means that what he did when he walked the dusty roads and talked such radical sense is what we are meant to be doing now.
We can't turn a blind eye or pretend none of this is happening. We can't pick and choose who we love. We can't sit back and hope that 'someone else' sorts it out. We can't wait.
If we follow Jesus, then we do what he did.
It's quite simple. This is who we are.
And this is our response to Christmas. It's more than decorations, presents and even time with family. It's being who we're meant to be.