Christmas is for everyone is not new news, but the idea that the Christmas message belongs to everyone might be for some people. No matter what religious tradition you feel most closely connected to or even if you do not ascribe to any religious tradition or if you blend traditions, the Christmas message is for you! Over the next three weeks, I am going to explore why you have reason to celebrate! Maybe you are thinking, “I already have reason to celebrate! We get together with family. We give gifts to our friends and family. We eat amazing food. We party and then party some more. We go see the lights on people’s homes and we warm ourselves with hot chocolate by the fire. Why do I need any other reason to celebrate at Christmas?” Good point and great question. I am hoping to make a deep impression on you that beyond these Wonderful Reasons lies the reason that Christians celebrate Christmas. Don’t tune me out just yet. The first week of this series, we explored how Jesus came to change our minds about God. This is not an exclusive message to Christians. It is a message that should lead us to Love and Inclusion. The second week in this series, we explored how Jesus came to change our minds about ourselves. This message reveals that we are one with God and yet long for God. Our longing for Absolute Love leads us to rediscover our true identity. Now, we turn to what I consider the most interesting messages of the Christmas season.
It is our human tendency to divide, categorize, and place people into well-organized boxes of “insiders” and “outsiders.” Even in Jesus’ day, the pharisees divided people by ‘clean’ and ‘unclean,’ Jew and Gentile, ‘holy’ and ‘profane.’ We have an inherent distrust of people who are different from us and yet the Christian message calls us to radical trust of The Other. The message of Christmas is that there is no more division among us. And guess who guided our way to the Christ child at Christmas…..OUTSIDERS or the Magi, the wise men. They were most likely Zoroastrian priests from Persia. Barbara Brown Taylor in her new book Holy Envy notes that most Christians think that the Magi pointed the way to Jesus, believed in him, then returned home to profess a new faith in Jesus. Christians essentially baptize these priests into the Christian faith without any evidence that they became followers of Jesus. Whether Christians make a conscious decision to do this or not, we feel better about outsiders becoming insiders who pointed the way to Jesus. It is much more confusing to think that outsiders led us to Jesus and then returned home to continue serving as Zoroastrian priests.
But what if this was an intentional part of the story that should have led Christians to see that Jesus was announcing an inclusive message that all people bear the image of God. Jesus message crossed human-made boundary lines to say that any person who has eyes to see and ears to hear may lead us to the Christ, the Divine, Absolute Love.
This is the Hopeful message of the season:
There is no longer outsiders and insiders because all humans were created bearing the divine image. We are all brothers and sisters no matter our religious tradition. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in Not in God’s Name writes that although we look different…you do not look like me and I do not look like you…yet we both bear the image of God. He challenges each of us to see the face of God in The Other.
If every created thing is a “Hiding place and the revelation of God” (Rohr, 15), then we have reason to feel safe and hopeful for our world.
We have a reason to feel hopeful that we can embody more of our inherent goodness, compassion, love, joy, peace because Jesus was fully human just like us.
We should continue to listen to those who practice different religious traditions because they just might be showing us the way. There are many other biblical stories in the Hebrew bible and the Christian New Testament that attest to this fact.
May you connect to the spirit of Hope this holiday season!