I hope this post finds you happy and in good health. Rhiannon and I have just finished opening our presents and are looking forward to going over to my Aunt Rose's house in a couple of hours to enjoy the annual Christmas Turkey and gift exchange with the extended Taylor family. Rhiannon will start making her world famous corn casserole in a few minutes-world famous at least in the Taylor household!
As we're all supposed to do this time of the year, I've been reflecting a lot about the true meaning of Christmas over the past few days. My heart goes out to the worlds pastors who have to find new shades of meaning and spiritual insight every single year as they prepare their Christmas sermons to deliver to their congregations. Being that it's Christmas day, this message may be a little late for pastors and missionaries looking for last minute enlightenment, but it's not late in terms of relevance for the new year.
First I'll start with what we all know and understand. Unless your last name is Scrooge and your first name is Grinch, you probably realize that Christmas is about the generosity of giving and not the vanity of commercialization. With the slew of Hallmark and ABC Family Christmas specials this time of year, I find it odd that even Hollywood sells the message of faith, family and values this time of the year.
This next thought may be a bit Pollyanna-ish, but I think that both sides of the "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Holidays" war need to lay down their arms and take a breather, if not for political and theological reasons, then at least for practical ones. Having to correct people every time they use a holiday greeting that you don't like can get exhausting after a while. As much as I would like to continue my soapbox on this one, you can consider that a freebie.
The real message I'd like to share with you this Christmas is this. In light of my debate with a radical jihadist in London and my recent trip to the West Bank, one of the ideas that has turned my world upside down and caused me to reevaluate nearly everything I have held dear in terms of my identity and values is the idea that one of the central themes of the New Testament is a complete and utter rejection of the value of exercising earthly power and authority over others. When Jesus said, "The meek shall inherit the earth," the people of His day knew exactly what He meant. On the day of judgment, those who will be left standing are not the Caesars and the centurions, but the cooks and the carpenters. Practically the entire life and ministry of Jesus conveys the idea that the Kingdom of God belongs to the powerless, not the powerful.
Jesus said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them." In an age where politicians, even sincere politicians, are all-too-eager to invoke the name of Jesus as a stamp of divine approval upon their bid for the White House, I think a re-evaluation of the role of the Church, and how the Church interacts with earthly power is in order. Just as not everything that glitters is gold, I have a feeling that not everything that calls itself Christian is truly Christian.
Jesus was born in a stable and raised the son of a carpenter. He never levied a tax and He never waged a war. Although He could have used His birthright as heir to the Davidic throne to "restore the Kingdom to Israel", He deliberately chose not to. Instead, He put the priority on taking on the form of a servant and establishing God's true kingdom in the hearts of men. He had no earthly agenda but to love and to serve, especially those who lived with a different set of values than His own. Jesus managed to befriend the tax-collector, the zealot, the Samaritan, and the prostitute alike, calling them to repent.....without pursuing an earthly agenda to push them to the fringes of society.
As we head into the new election year, I think it would be wise for us all to remember that the world's only true "Christian" king (or ruler or politician or whatever term you would like to insert to denote earthly power) died on a wooden cross, suffering for the souls of the very people who were crucifying Him. May the example of Jesus be the true inspiration for us all to build a better world as we head into the new year.