Thursday, December 12, 2013

Third sunday of Advent: the war on Christmas

I was going to write about the war on Christmas but others beat me to it.  Sarah Palin's newest book, timed for Christmas shopping, names those in our culture today who have taken aim at Christmas, according to a couple reviews I have seen. It should do well. For some reason, some Christians are always looking for a fight. If there is a war on Christmas, maybe we should stay out of places like Best Buy and Walmart to keep from getting shot. Most people like Christmas though; Palin's point is that some of "them" want to get Christ out of Christmas. They don't want us to be able to say, Merry Christmas. This is like persecution, or something. I confess to not getting it. Where we live there are nativity scenes in front of nearly every church, and many houses, as well. Some houses have big inflatable Santas and nativity scenes. Take your pick. Mostly, it's take both: Jesus is the reason for the season but that doesn't mean we can't have our Christmas fun, too. No one is firing any shots over our heads. The local school says grace before passing out the Christmas goodies.

 The third week of Advent is coming up on us quickly. The gospel text is from Matthew 11, again it's John the Baptist. Here, he is in prison where he has plenty of time to think. He's thinking about his role as preparer of the way for the Messiah and he has some doubts about the one he prepared the way for. Where is the fire and brimstone? Where is the judgment he predicted was coming? So, far there has been mostly sermons, a couple miracles, a bunch of pretty ordinary followers, and this Jesus has shown a tendency to hang out with the wrong crowd. Is this the Christ of Christmas? John wonders. So he sends some of his disciples to ask Jesus that question. Are you the one or did I get it wrong and we are all still waiting for the Christ?

That's the question, isn't it? John's question, Who is this Jesus? Who is this Jesus of Christmas we are worried the secularists are plotting against?  If we believe he is the Christ, the Messiah, then how do we celebrate his birth? If there are battle lines then they are here. We come to honor the one who was humbly born and lived simply and loved greatly and gave his life for us. We honor his day as we follow him and live as he did.

The struggle we have is to know how shopping, decorating a tree, putting up lights and baking cookies honor His birth? It's easy to get caught up in the means so we forget the end. But, most of the Christians I know find their way through this spiritual dilemma. They bake or take food to others; they give meaningful gifts to friends, family and others in need. They share their time and themselves with those who are lonely this time of year. The war at Christmas is not much different from the fight we have the rest of the year. The fight with our selves. Who are living for? What is Christmas for?

Jesus said to John's disciples: Go and let John know what is going on; the blind, they see; the lame, they walk; the lepers, they are clean; the deaf, they hear; the dead, they are raised; and the poor are getting the good news brought to them. Then, he says something that sounds odd at first: Blessed are those who take no offense at me. I take that to mean that we are blessed when we let Jesus be Jesus and not try to fit him into our ideas of who Christ is supposed to be. There are so many good ways to serve Christ this Christmas. Make peace not war.