Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sending out a Christmas Card

The snows falling peacefully outside, covering the muddy ground and hiding the mangy grass and dead leaves that fell too late this Fall. From the comfort of a warm house and shielded from the blustery wind, the frosted branches and the gentle blanket of white displays a majestic beauty.

It makes me think about how dark the days are, yet how bright the snow gleams under the winter moon and the brilliant pinpoints of stars. The trees and plants are sleeping underneath this nightly glory. It's as if God knows that everything needs a little rest some times. The globe settles into its rhythm of growth, fruitfulness and rest.

Here in the Northern hemisphere we enjoy this rest at the time of Christmas. Not long ago, pagans would use this time to revel in celebrations of life, with evergreen fronds and bawdy parties. To sanctify this celebration, the holiday was given the name Christmas and people were redirected to focus on the birth of Christ, the Savior.

I don't really care about the debate. It doesn't matter, really. Everyone agrees that we need light in this dark world, particularly when the days get short and cold. Everyone agrees that peace is better than war.

With LED lights decorating the houses and the words PEACE and JOY adorning various displays, we should keep in mind what Jesus really meant. Babies are cute. They represent innocence to us. We remember fondly holding little, helpless babies and giving gifts to children at Christmas. But Jesus was far different. He was born in a time when Israel was occupied by a hostile force: Rome. People were oppressed. There was no peace. Jesus' parents had to register for Rome, who was taking a census. Power was a big deal back then, as it is now. Rome didn't tolerate insurrection. And Herod was fearful of anything that would threaten his sweet deal with Rome.

Into this hostile world, torn up with politics and power came a defenseless baby. He was also the creator of the cosmos! He humbled himself to be dependent on two of his own creations. Mary and Joseph changed the Creator's diapers.

But he didn't come just to show us an example of loving humility. He came to die.

There's an expression in the legal world: Buy peace. Two parties are litigating over something. One has wronged the other and owes a debt. The one can "buy peace" with the other by settling outside of court.

This is what God has done for us. We owe God an eternal debt that we can't pay. If we "went to trial" we'd lose and need to pay off our debt in eternal torment. But God arranged a way to buy our peace. He humbled himself as His son, Jesus, became a human and then lived perfectly. He never sinned. But then he took on the penalty as if he had sinned, letting us kill him on the cross.

Love brought Jesus to earth. Love kept him obedient to God in sinless perfection. Love carried him through the agony of false accusation, whipping and beatings. Love held him to the cross for us.

If God did this for us, to bring peace between us and Himself, we should try to love each other, too.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Quick Little Word on Hate

A quick little word about "hate." Seems that our culture goes from one "viral" story about "hate" to the next, vilifying anyone who says the slightest thing that runs against the current of popular "morality." Part of this is the quick access we have to anything someone says. People tweet out something or an interview segment gets tweeted and FB'd and soon everyone has an opinion about how so-and-so is a "hate-filled bigot."

Until the next "hate-filled bigot" shows up, that will dominate the news. Ironically, it's almost like we're looking for someone to hate. We relish the drunken ramblings of some formerly wonderful movie star. We devour stories about some phrase someone gives to a magazine interviewer. We rail over a comment off-camera from some celebrity of whatever.

Maybe it's time to stop passing harsh judgment on others and remember that when we raise our friendly finger to someone in traffic... that's hate. When we say all sorts of "choice" words in our head at the ____ who's blocking the line at the store ... it's hate. When we think the worst of someone when we might not have all the facts ... it's hate. When someone derides anyone on account of their beliefs and treats them as lower than themselves, it's hate.

I'm fairly confident in saying that we're all guilty of being hate-filled bigots to one degree or another. No one can claim that they didn't treat someone poorly because they didn't like how they dressed, acted or what beliefs they hold.

Imagine a world where we accepted that others can hold a view different than us, and still treated them with grace and love. Imagine if we didn't insist that everyone needed to be convinced of our way of thinking before we treat them nicely. Imagine if we all showed humility and understanding to others, knowing that we all fall in many ways. Might be a little more peaceful and positive in our culture. Might be a place where we didn't see so many people in need of emotional healing.

Okay, I guess that wasn't a quick thought. But I hope this resonates with all my friends. Merry Christmas!!