The Work of Christmas

This appeared today as the Christmas Day devotion for my congregation. Sandy Springs Christian Church.

 The child is here, and through him the whole world rejoices. I think we love Christmas Day so much because the world stops. We have some time to simply be. What a wonderful gift! Tomorrow, life will begin again, in more than one way. For you, what will be different now that the messiah is here? Will we rejoice at the new possibilities that are born through this child? Will we celebrate the new life offered through the messiah? The angels sing, the thrill of hope is real, a weary world rejoicesРnow what are we going to do?

The gift of Christmas calls us to be different. All of our expectation and preparation will be nullified if nothing in our lives and the world changes. Our reality is not unchangeable and the birth of a messiah is all the proof that we need.

Something I read every Christmas Day is Howard Thurman’s poem The Work of Christmas Begins. I share it with you now as it perfectly lays out our work following the gift of a messiah:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.

Merry Christmas!

The First Birth Annoucement

Advent 2015We love to get birth announcements in the mail. The announcement usually arrives with a picture of the baby, the proud parents and sister and brothers’ names and their weight and height. For a baseball card comparison, it’s life’s rookie card. Jesus’ parents didn’t have to send out a birth announcement because of an angel of the Lord did so for them. I am bringing you good news of great joy.

Do you know the rest of the announcement? It’s important stuff. “Do not be afraid, for I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people.” Eugene Peterson calls the birth of Jesus “an event for everyone.” We focus on the good news for us and our lives, but what about for everyone else. Not to mention that the very first words after the birth of Jesus are “do not be afraid.”

As we open gifts on Christmas morning, are we also willing to open our hearts and spirits? Are we willing to embrace that the birth of Jesus is good news for all the earth? Are we willing to quit letting fear rule our thoughts and actions?

Our land today is ripe with fear and misunderstanding and all of the bad fruit that fear and misunderstanding produces. Perhaps I am a bit naive but I still believe that we are stronger together than we are apart. I believe there is no “us” and “them” but only “we.” As a follower of Jesus, I am concerned that if we will not work for and stand up for peace, then who will.

Very soon, a word of hope will be spoken into our anxiety and fear. Are you prepared to receive and believe this word? It was the first birth announcement.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy for all people.”

Jesus Was Not Born So You Could Get a Good Deal on a Televsion

CupsKeep Christ in…Starbucks?

The war on Christmas has begun. More precisely, the war on the war on Christmas has begun. This is an annual tradition where some Christians decide that everyone and everything is conspiring together to do away with Christmas and anything having to do with the birth of Jesus all together.

The most recent affront was Starbucks (not a Christian company BTW, but one whose ethics align with Jesus in some ways) having the nerve to put out plain red cups for the season. They took off the snowflakes and other wintry accessories which apparently are symbols for the birth of Jesus.

Here’s the issue from my point of view. We do need to remember the “reason for the season” while also keeping in mind that Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection has very little to do with what we do to mark the holiday. Jesus was not born so that we may all get a good deal on a 40 inch TV and spend more than we can afford. My observation is that most people who are upset about the term “Happy Holidays” and the like are really upset about a loss of privilege. As our nation has grown more diverse, certain groups have lost privilege and influence and this does not sit well with them. So, a war breaks out against companies whose interest is gaining revenue and profit from previously mentioned diverse nation. If your customer base is broad, who wouldn’t work to speak to that broad base. After all, most retails companies capture 40-60% of their sales during this time of year. Yes, I’m looking at you, overly consumerist culture. The hysteria is pretty silly, don’t you think?

If we are serious about what Christmas means for our world, let’s have a serious conversation about it. If we really want to be outraged about something, let’s be outraged about the right things. How about we be outraged that we have the homeless, the hungry, people living on the margins because of discrimination, racism, an addiction to gun violence, etc ?Let’s be outraged about the right things if we are going to be serious about what Emmanuel- God with us- really means for not only our nation, but the world. What does that say about the faith if we are more outraged about what’s on a cup than we are about the suffering of God’s children?

So friends, how about we get over ourselves? Let’s drop the Christmas persecution myth and get on with the real work of Christmas. ¬†Healing, wholeness, and life abundant for all God’s children. That’s the type of world that puts Christ in Christmas.