What is Christmas?

I finally pulled up to the house about 9pm after a very long day. My mind was spiraling with a meeting I just had, so I leaned my head against the steering wheel for just a moment thinking “it’s what happens in the movies.” It didn’t help. So, I drug myself out of the car, went inside, made a cup of hot tea, and sat at the counter to contemplate what just happened.

I could go into the narcissism I just witnessed, or the circular reasoning. I could tell you about how every time I said something remotely intellectual the other person quickly changed the subject to “save face.” Or we could talk about judgment, elitism, and condescension, because those were all present too. But I won’t (I guess I kind of just did), because that wasn’t what I was contemplating setting at the counter.

The comment from the day that played continually through my mind was, “I don’t celebrate Christmas because of the religious discrimination it implies.”

It’s significant for many reasons, but mainly because recently I’ve been thinking about Christmas. I know that’s not really unique, since well, everyone is thinking about it right now, but I mean really thinking about it. What is the significance around it? What have we turned it into? So, when I heard that statement, those questions kept coming to mind. Was what she is saying true?

A few years ago, I was The Family Pastor at a church and thankfully I had some amazing youth leaders that served with me. Once or twice a month we would pick a breakfast dive and hole up for a meeting which usually consisted of about 20 cups of coffee and sometimes we would stay so long we would have both breakfast and lunch. We would plan out all the teaching and try to find a way for the youth we work with to “experience” the Gospel.

So, it was November and we were gearing up for the Christmas season, one of the most exciting times for a church, right? There was one problem with that, all of us setting around the table were somewhat self-professed Scrooges and the last thing we wanted to do was “another” program. We begrudgingly began discussing what we wanted to do, trying to think of something that would have an impact; something that would show the youth what Christmas really is (you see where I’m going with this).

I’m not sure which one of the evil geniuses I was working with came up with it, but one of the guys started telling us about how a lot of times “stables” in biblical times were actually more like caves. And that was when the light bulbs went off! That was it! We would load all the youth up and anyone else that wanted to join us and we would spend our Christmas event together in a cave!

Everyone showed up at the church layered up, except for that one teenage boy in every group that seems to think shorts in the winter are ok, and we headed out. After several attempts to find it, we finally reached our destination. We picked up our lanterns and hiked down to the cave. We walked until we came to an opening big enough for all of us and we shared the Christmas story. Once the guys were done reading the story, we sung carols complete with cave-like echoes, and then joined hands and thanked God for what he had done.

As we hiked back to the cars, vans, and buses, everyone was quiet, but happy. We, as a community, had a new understanding of what Christ did for us.

So, tonight as I sat in contemplation, that night is what flooded back to me. It’s funny how something that happened a few years ago can still be teaching me lessons, but it is.

I didn’t realize it at the time but that night taught me about expectations (stay with me I’m in rambling thought mode). You see what happened on that Christmas night wasn’t what was expected. What was expected was a king, complete with purple robes and a golden scepter that would rule his kingdom. What was expected was a messiah, a warrior with sword and shield in hand that would come in an overtake the darkness.

AND HE WAS A KING AND A WARRIOR!

But it wasn’t as expected.

A baby came in a series of unusual circumstances and it wasn’t as expected, but it was as promised!

This king decided to rule this kingdom from among his people. Born in a stable (perhaps a cave) among ordinary people.

This king overcame the darkness in a way that couldn’t later be overturned, by sacrificial love.

So, Christmas? Is it “religious discrimination?” It’s actually the complete opposite.

Christmas, in it’s truest form, is inclusiveness versus discrimination. Christmas is about the sacrificial love of a king coming to us and saying “be a part of the kingdom, be a part of what I can offer you. You deserve nothing, but I’ll give you everything.”

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