Keeping the Real Christ in Christmas

Christians are well known in American popular culture for trying to "keep Christ in Christmas" or remember "the reason for the season." Some Christians have refused to say phrases like "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." And do you remember last year's red Starbuck's cup controversy?

As a Christian pastor, I wish Christians were better known in our society for remembering not only that the word "Christ" is in "Christmas" but who that Christ, our Messiah, actually was and is. 

The story of Christmas is, in short: God came to be with us humans as one of us. But how exactly did he come? He did not come as a Scandinavian prince in the 15th century. He did not come as a Japanese-American in the 21st century.

God came, according to the orthodox Christian tradition, as a dark-skinned, middle-eastern Jew, born to poor, outcast parents who lived in a backwater town on the underside of an oppressive empire. God's coming was in the form of a baby that was a refugee at the beginning of his life, blue collar tradesman in the middle of his life, and homeless toward the end of his life. God showed up, according to Christianity, most especially in the body of a man who was wrongfully arrested, unjustly tried, and summarily executed by the state. That was Jesus. 

If we remember not only the propositional 'reason for the season' but the middle-eastern person the season is about, then we Christians will be more upset that thousands upon thousands of innocents are dying in Aleppo than we are about red Starbucks cups. If we can remember that Jesus was a dark-skinned man unjustly executed by the state, perhaps we would be more outspoken about Walter Scott's unjust execution and officer Slager's mistrial than we are about people saying "happy holidays." If we remember that Jesus was a child refugee, perhaps (in solidarity with him), we will open our arms wide to receive refugees fleeing devastation, whatever their faith, rather than trying to force people to celebrate our holiday. Perhaps, remembering Jesus was homeless, we'll spend a little more of our time and resources with homeless neighbors rather than "braving the crowds" to buy one more toy. 

Let's keep the real Christ in Christmas as we wait for his coming, and perhaps, when he returns, we will recognize him.