Given my tirades over the current model of church and the fact that I probably offended the majority of my pastor friends, I felt compelled to express the fact that there are seasons when folk fondly referred to as “Chreasters,” do return to church. Christmas and Easter have for centuries re-inspired the masses!
There seems always an underlying hope and hunger, regardless of where one lives or even one’s religion? As the writer of Ecclesiastes states, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart.” Ecc. 3:11b.
Though at times it seems that St. Nicholas and retail America have been more a part of preserving this Holy-day than the churches, nevertheless when given a chance, people still flock to celebrate this grand tradition of lights, giving, and in our neck of the woods, Candlelight Services. Christmas Carols are made new every season as radio stations hurriedly slip into the season the day after Thanksgiving!
Through the ages, the thought seems to beg our awareness that out there somewhere, in the now myriad of galaxies, dwells a Being far more powerful than the rich and famous, more loving than the best of Mom’s, while surpassing the capacity of the most enterprising Dad. Even the Atheist is driven to argument!
Our falling short of the minimum goals we set for ourselves, let alone what scripture explains as the expectations of God, has driven the religious throughout the millennia to describe the need for a sacrifice(s) to appease this Being. The beauty of Christianity is that this very One, lovingly offers to become that sacrifice!
Preserved in the Jewish tradition is the need for a lamb without blemish; perhaps what our self-righteousness would require in return for our repeated sins? I believe God knew this about His Creation, and before the foundation of the Earth, foreordained that He would become flesh, the sinless sacrifice! His demonstrated unattainable sinlessness, validated by his power over the very Laws of Nature, and salted with unending compassion for the outcast, would enrage the self-righteous.
This Babe of Bethlehem, as prophesied by the Prophet Micah, and announced to shepherds, would grow up a common man nearby Jerusalem. Later as a sacrificial Lamb, would be led to slaughter just outside the Holy City, by the very ones “called” to enforce the unattainable requirements of the Law. God ever uses religion, though often contrarian to the ways of the religious.
The story goes that wise men, Magi from the East, brought gifts from afar, gold as a precious metal, frankincense as perfume or incense, and myrrh as anointing oil. Each perhaps symbolic of who this holy child would become, how his life would end and ours would be redeemed! What a gift!
Merry Christmas, to all!