Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The real work of Christ begins after Christmas

I just sent Bishop Marc Andrus of the Episcopal Diocese of California a note saying Happy Holidays. As a bit of a running joke, I've been trying to wish all my Christian clergy friends Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. After all, the godless secularists have won the war on Christmas.

Really, though, the furor over Happy Holidays detracts from the real message of Christmas.

Jesus came into a time of great injustice. Human rights were regularly violated in occupied Palestine.

The Jews of the time were expecting a Messiah who would overthrow the Roman Empire. It seems God doesn't work that way. God's power, revealed in Jesus, was the ultimate revelation of soft power. Jesus changed the hearts and minds of His followers - Jews, Gentiles - even the Romans. Some trust in chariots and some trust in horses, as the Psalmist says - some trust in military might or great wealth. Some think that God works through military might and great wealth. God may yet come again in a flash of light and a blast of trumpets, but the work God is doing in the world is far more subtle, and God needs our own hands to do it.

Unfortunately, human beings screwed it up and Christianity became an imperial religion. One could just roll one's eyes and shrug if not for the real human cost.

As we go forth into this new year, let us be ever vigilant in serving the poor - the ones to whom Jesus ministered first. Let us in fact be willing to listen to the poor, to find out their real needs and conduct advocacy alongside them. In doing so we help ourselves stay true to the essence of Christianity.

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