These two words should not go together but more times than not, they do.
A Free-for-All Christmas?
by Phil Ware
Have you noticed that the Christmas season is more like "let's get ready to rumble" than it does "O holy night"?
The midnight releases of video consoles, video games, movies, books and specialty gifts have caused rowdy stampedes. We've seen grown adults trample each other and get into fistfights over places in line and who got to a toy first. Yikes!
Then from many who come from the normally dysfunctional family, there is all the family baggage that gets unwrapped with the Christmas presents. Innocent statements are misinterpreted resulting in hurt feelings. Stiletto sharp innuendos are used to carve up folks who are supposed to love one another. And then fights break out because someone corrects or disciplines someone else's child. Double yikes!
Even the pilgrimages back to Bethlehem to celebrate the birth of Christ are complicated by the ongoing war between Jews, Muslims, and Christians in the very place where Jesus was born. These tensions threaten all of world peace in the land where the Prince of Peace lived, died, and rose again. Triple yikes!
While there is much about the Bible's account of Jesus' birth that is precious and touching, I believe it is also important to remind us that the Jesus story is not all sweetness and light. One of the most horrific stories in the New Testament is centered around the birth of Jesus. This story is sometimes called "The Slaughter of the Innocents." Jesus' apostle Levi the tax collector records it this way:
Herod was furious when he learned that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, because the wise men had told him the star first appeared to them about two years earlier. Herod's brutal action fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah:
A cry of anguish is heard in Ramah -- weeping and mourning unrestrained. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted—for they are dead. (Matthew 2:16-18 NLT)
What are we to make of this?
The Lord himself said, "And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed ... (Matthew 24:6 NRS). We live in a free for all planet where sin has marred every level of relationships. The whole story of Jesus' coming is tied to the real world in which we live. God didn't prepare a pristine time where his Son could be protected and coddled!
Jesus was born into a vicious world of hate, war, struggle, and jealously. These fruits of hell would be ever-present for each step he took on the little blue planet he created. God had to use an angelic vision to warn Joseph and Mary to take the baby Jesus away to prevent his slaughter. Even from the first moments of Jesus' arrival, even while listening to the angelic choir singing "gloria in excelcis deo", we hear the rumblings of Herod's jealous and paranoid bile.
So when things seem bleak or difficult or fractured in the coming days of Christmas, please remember, these are as much a reminder of why Jesus came as are the sweet sounds of angels, the excited presence of Shepherds, and the mysterious journey of the magi. Jesus came to save a broken world. He didn't do it from afar, but from up close ... in person ... beginning in a manger ... going to a cross ... before conquering death and leaving behind an empty tomb.
Originally posted: 12/18/2006
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(c) 2006 Phil Ware