Jesus, No Stable, Just Love

love-your-neighbour-as-yourself

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.
 Luke 2:10

Merry Christmas or whatever your holiday is this holiday season.  I hope you have or are having a good one.  I am a Christian but don’t hold to the traditional look at the Christmas story.  I don’t think Jesus was born in a barn or cave, but in a home of Joseph’s relatives.  He did after all go to Bethlehem because he was from there.  The word that Luke uses for inn when we translate “there was no room in the inn” is the same word that is used for the “upper room” at the last supper.  Now I don’t know about you, but I never pictured the last supper in the Holiday Inn banquet hall.  Ok, that’s stretching it a little.  But what makes more sense that Joseph and Mary were visiting relatives and when she was reading to give birth they moved her to a bigger room or they were traveling and about to give birth and some jerk throws them in a stable?  Especially when you think about the importance of hospitality in that region during that time and before.  The Old testament has many verses about taking care of the stranger or traveler so it was important to them to do that.

If you are wondering about the manger,…. Many people kept their animals in the house at night for the extra body heat.  They would keep a small manger filled with food in the home to keep the animals quiet at night.  I wish that worked with my cats.

Do we know about what year he was born?  Absolutely not.  Everyone says 4-6 BCE because they  only read Matthews account talking about Herod the Great.  Yes, He died in 4 BCE so that should make Jesus born before that date.  That would work except that Luke says that Jesus was born while Quirinius who took the position in 6 CE.  That’s 10 years after Herod died.  Hmmmm Can’t exactly make the stories not fit can we.  Yes he was the Legate of Galatia from 5-3 BCE but that isn’t the word that Luke uses.

So we either have to admit that Luke is wrong or our tradition is wrong about the time of the birth.

Now we could sit and debate about whether I’m right or wrong, but that isn’t really what is important.  What is important is what the birth of Jesus represents.  It’s a change.  A big Change that calls to us all.

Throughout the book of Deuteronomy, judges and the books of Samuel and the Kings there is a cycle that is continued to be pointed to that Matthew points to.  the Deuteronomy cycle is basically this.  You are in good standing with God, you commit sins, you are punished and a Messiah (judge, good King) comes and brings you back to good standing.

The Jews at that time would have felt they were in bad standing and Jesus is pointed out as the Messiah.  The one that would lead them back to good standing.  He would lead them into caring about one another and not following some religious laws or tradition that has been made up.  Jesus calls us to love and sacrifice.  He said the greatest command was to Love God and love your neighbor as yourself and then he showed the way by sacrificing himself for this idea.  When he says to take up your cross he is saying you better be willing to die as a revolutionary.  Not necessarily a revolutionary against the government, but against any group or organization that holds to ideas that are hurtful to people.

A true Christian follows in the steps of Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and fights for the poor, oppressed, persecuted, underprivileged and victimized.  Just like Jesus fought for women and foreigners we must continue to change the world as he did.  To do that we have to see each other as someone to be loved, no matter what they are liked or what your religion has taught you to think of them.

When it all comes down to what is important, those traditions aren’t important. It’s whether you actually love.  Are you willing to sacrifice it all and make the change?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quirinius

Keeping Christ in Christmas

happy holidays

“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.”
― Roy L. Smith

For many years there has been an effort among Christians to call the end of the year holiday season Christmas.  December 25th is the celebration of the birth of Jesus.  Without his birth there would be no holiday.  For more than 2,000 years it’s been Christmas and it shouldn’t change now.  This is the basic argument that we often hear.  No Xmas, no Happy Holidays, no Seasons Greetings.  We want Merry Christmas.

I used to be one of those, but have reconsidered my position.  The main reason is not that it is one more thing that Christians are against. Christianity in many ways has become an anti religion.  People know what we are against, but really don’t know what Christianity is for.  Maybe that comes from a history of “thou shalt nots”.

Instead of being against something, Christians should be promoting things that are positive such as the love of God, the sacrifice of Jesus, forgiveness, mercy, kindness etc..  This holiday season is about the love of God for humanity.  As a follower of Christ we should then use this time to promote that attitude.

I’m sorry that you don’t want to wish someone a happy Holy day (holiday) or Chi Mass (Xmas) with Chi being the first letter of Christ in Greek.  I’m also sorry that Jesus wasn’t born in December.  I’m sorry for a lot of things, but mostly I’m sorry this is even an issue.

How much time and effort is put into changing someone’s mind about what is the correct name for the December season?  How many heated debates end with no one winning?  How will it help America, your local area, your church or even you if we all say Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays?  What is the eternal difference that is being made?

How does arguing about whether we say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays reach out to someone in need?  What difference will that make in someone’s life?  James 2:16  says “If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?”  I say if you are more interested in getting everyone to say Merry Christmas and you neglect the real needs of your community it is of no good.

Let me ask you what difference it makes if we can make a business or people say Merry Christmas if your neighbor is without food?  Does this help the man who lives in the park or the drug addict down the street? How does this help the single parent struggling to make ends meet?   Is this really a priority that a Christian should have?

I have often thought that many Christians waste time and effort trying to get laws or rules changed instead of putting effort into the changing of a person’s heart.   Especially our own.  The first thing we need to do is really find the meaning of Christmas.  My pastor reminded the congregation this morning that Christmas is not about me.  It is about how I can give happiness in the lives of others.  The Christ Mass is a celebration of a life lived for others.  The life of Jesus was a life that was filled with sacrifice for others.  A sacrifice for those in need, the hurting, rejected and hated of society.   It wasn’t for changing what people said or getting my way, but about touching those who were hurting.

When will Christianity take Christmas for what it really is?  It is not a name or title to be fought over.  It is a state of mind of sacrifice and love for mankind that goes beyond anything we could ever imagine.  It is grace, mercy, peace and hope all rolled into one.

So what about you?  Will you fight for the name Christmas or will you show Christ in your heart to someone in need?  We will never lose Christmas as long as it is in our hearts.