January 4, 2018

Merry Christmas

By Glenn

The commercial Christmas ended at Midnight December 25 as retailers switched to Easter candy.  Believers, however, have had the rest of the Twelve Days of Christmas to reflect.  Christians and non-Christians alike celebrate at the darkest time of the year to remember the light.  It’s no wonder then that light plays an integral part of the festivities.  We light up our homes, but we should also light up our hearts.

For Christians, Jesus knew service brings light into the world.  He entered the world as a servant, not a warrior.  Saint Paul tells us “Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.”

Being a light in a world then requires following Christ’s example.  Instead of focusing on the cruel and judgmental parts of scripture, Jesus focused on the merciful and kind aspects.  When people were hungry, Jesus fed them.  When they were strangers, Jesus welcomed them.  When they were sick, Jesus healed them.  These actions and themes are the Gospel.  Kindness and mercy are the Good News.

Jesus faced opposition even from his closest followers.  According to the Gospel of Matthew, a multitude, drawn by his compassion, followed Jesus to a remote place.  His disciples complained that they could not feed the crowd.  Jesus ordered them to give their only food supply to the people.  I can just imagine how those disciples felt giving away their last fish and bread. Instead of going hungry, however, all ate well.

This behavior is quite a contrast with the story of the “rich man” who neglects Lazarus. Every day the rich man saw Lazarus outside, full of sores and without food.  Lazarus begged for mercy, but the rich man refused to hear the cry of the poor.  Did the rich man feel blessed?  Did he feel Lazarus deserved his poverty? We don’t know.  We do know Lazarus enjoyed God’s mercy, while the rich man suffered his judgment.

It’s all too clear that Christians ought to be a light for their neighbors, especially the least among us and the stranger.  We ought to be like the despised Samaritan.  In the Gospel of Luke Jesus contrast the Good Samaritan’s behavior with the temple priests.  The priests couldn’t even stop to help a brutally beaten man.  It was left to a Samaritan, a foreigner, to care for the injuries and pay for his health care.  The foreigner was the best neighbor.

This message was not popular.  Cruelty and bigotry had a more immediate sense of satisfaction.  The political and religious leaders of the day knew it.  According to the Gospels, they constantly tried to trick Jesus.  One day they brought an adulteress to him, knowing the law required a public stoning.  Jesus showed mercy and asked the “person without sin” to cast the first stone.  The crowd walked away.

Christmas is about bringing light into a dark world.  It’s not about shopping or saying “Merry Christmas.”  It’s about letting your light shine.  Let it shine for the hungry.  Let is shine for the sick.  Let it shine for the accused.  Our neighbors need mercy and kindness, all of them, not just the ones who look and think like us.  Merry Christmas.

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