Blog Archives

Let’s Pretend Our Own Christmas Story

Let’s pretend Jesus knocked on your door Christmas day to join you for his birthday celebration.
Can you picture him standing there when you open the door? Can you feel your dawning recognition and surprise. Can you sense your moment of doubt, then feel it washed away by sheer joy? Do his eyes have laughter lines as he smiles with just a hint of fun at surprising you. Does his simple kindness surround you like a comforter?
Picture you inviting him in, stammering as you start to reach out to shake his hand, only to be embraced in a warm hug that brings tears of happiness and wonder to your eyes.
Let’s imagine how he might like to celebrate his birthday with you. Do you think he’d be happy if you asked him to sit down, then hurried to get the best lotion in the house to gently rub his worn and callused feet? Would he want to do the same for you? Would you protest because you feel unworthy? Or would you let him help you feel so very tenderly loved?
Maybe he’d accept a cup of coffee and then want to tell you the stories his mom used to tell over and over about giving birth in a dirty drafty barn and about the terror of fleeing to Egypt in the middle of the night with only a few clothes and little food.
Do you think Jesus might just try to fit in by eating second helpings and then nodding off now and then in front of the TV set? Would he accept a glass of wine and grin and ask if you’d like an upgrade?
Or would he possibly suggest, “Why don’t we pack up some of this turkey and dressing and yes, definitely some pie, to take to the people living in those shabby back rooms at the Highland Motel?” Or even ask, “Would you drive me up and down the interstate to check the bridges for homeless people who may need food?”
Or perhaps he’d gently make a more discomforting suggestion that some presents could be returned and the money sent to help refugees from the war in Syria.
Or perhaps he would just look into your eyes all the way to what’s hidden in your heart and quietly say, “If there is someone you have hurt or anyone who has wounded you, will you make me happy by using your phone now to reconcile with them?”
And then you’d remember what he said at that last dinner with his closest friends, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Then you’d feel not guilt, but regret, that you hadn’t thought of celebrating his birthday by doing more for others, even strangers, as he did his whole life.
So, you’d get your coat and gather food, even your favorite fudge pie, to take to others. And you’d see that he was smiling at you as he waved goodbye.
You didn’t feel any condemnation, only his love and a stronger desire to love others as he loves you. Because you know that God did not send his Son into the world to condemn us, but in order that we might be saved by him.
And as you start out, you’d whisper, “Happy Birthday, Jesus.” And you would know he heard.

We Are Not Called to Just Love Others as We Love Ourselves or to Do Unto Others as We Would Have Them Do Unto Us.

An area I disagree with many Christians about is that Jesus’ ultimate call to love is summed up in, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” and “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” I think these are fundamentally limited ways to love. I have found from experience that, one: I often don’t love myself, and two: how I am able to accept and experience being loved is quite different from a lot of other people. I think at a later time in his journey, Jesus caught on to that too. Then he said to love others as He loved us. That greater love had no one than that they lay down their life for another. He laid down his desires, his gifts and ministries, his power, his limited vision of his purpose, his followers, even ultimately His awareness of God’s presence, as he hung on the cross. He gave up his self- hood. That’s a call most of us avoid hearing. Dying to self involves letting go of pretty much all of our preconceived ideas and natural inclinations in order to get outside of our own self and become able to hear/see/ respond lovingly and appropriately to those different from us. This dying to self is very very hard to do. It was so hard for Jesus that he literally bled in his anguish and then experienced deep despair in his feeling of abandonment by God.
Today, I think we get so nervous about something sounding like we are saying Jesus isn’t God, that we miss what we can learn from his life about our own journey. His life, God or not, was human. He didn’t spring forth fully grown, fully mature, completely understanding his mission, or knowing his future. He came as a baby, vulnerable, innocent, and ignorant. There are some obvious learning events in His life story, and there are also more subtle ones we often miss. Watch him as a twelve year old learn to wait on God’s timing and to consider his parents’ feelings and guidance. Watch him get pushed out of his comfort zone by his mother’s caring about a young couple’s embarrassment on their wedding day, watch him escape from his angry neighbors in Nazareth, but three years later, fully knowing the outcome setting his face toward a hostile Jerusalem, watch as he let’s a gentile woman convince him of his call to minister outside his own religious group as he recognizes the faith of even unbelievers, watch him weep as he recognizes that his own people will not accept his love and salvation, watch him test his power on a fig tree, but then recognize his own servanthood as he washes his disciples feet, watch him struggle in the garden with his realization that he must die young, watch him accept the agony of feeling abandoned by God on the cross, and yet still move to “Thy will be done.” Consider the difference in the difficulty of the moral code of the ten “Do Nots” and the spirituality of the “Beatitudes.” There’s way more to loving than most of us want to know.