Merry Christmas! As we begin the actual “Twelve Days” of Christmas, we remember what it can mean for God to literally break into the world in new and unexpected ways. One of the best quotes that I have seen shared this year comes from Michael Spencer. He writes:
“The incarnation is the complete refutation of every human system and institution that claims to control, possess and distribute God. Whatever any church or religious leader may claim in regard to their particular access to God or control over your experience of God, the incarnation is the last word: God loves the world. God came into the world in the form of the people God created (including you and me)…. We all are marked by God’s fingerprints.”
— Michael Spencer, Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality
Within the incarnation God does something totally unexpected. God becomes human and overturns all human conception of the way things are and should be. God’s love is not fair. If it were fair, there would be no such thing as grace. Rather, because of God’s love and the gift of grace, we are forgiven, loved, and made heirs of the promise as Children of God.
My favorite Christmas carol is “Go Tell it on the Mountain.” Perhaps its because its a spiritual, and I just resonate musically with spirituals. Perhaps its because of the image of the mountain makes so much sense given I grew up in a town with a view like this (at right), that of Poulsbo, Washington with the majestic Olympic Mountains out to the west past Liberty Bay (in the foreground) and the Hood Canal (not pictured). These are parts of it, I am sure. But even more so, I love this song today because at the center of the song is the chorus which proclaims,
“Go Tell it on the Mountain, over the hills and everywhere. Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born.”
It’s not a “keep this to yourself” message, its a “go and share” and “do likewise” message. It reminds me of this Tweet I saw earlier this week. “What happens in Bethlehem, doesn’t stay in Bethlehem.” Yes, it’s playing on the Las Vegas slogan, but its actually quite profound, and missional to the core. The good news of Christmas, news that is part of God’s on-going work and action (that we read about regarding the birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus) and that we discern together as a community is not meant for a few. It’s meant for all.
So what is Christmas? I believe its a time to rejoice, smile, and be thankful. But its so much more! It’s also a time to remember why we believe what we believe and why we do what we do. It’s a time to remember that God is with us, Emmanuel, because God wants to be with creation and humanity that God created. God chooses to be in relationship because God loves us. This is good news. It’s also good news that our conception of power, order, fairness, right and wrong, etc., is not the same as God’s. Because invariably we would come up way short in every way. Rather, God’s way is that of a mysterious and overarching love and grace which transcends difference and I also believe particularities. What can we do about this love and gift of love, except smile and share it with others?
Merry Christmas! May the peace that surpasses all understanding be with you today and everyday, and may the love of this season lead you to share that love with others.