Last night, Christmas eve, I went to church with my family.
It was a very normal white suburban north-american church, with a stage, spotlights, electric guitars, and a way-too-often out-of-sync PowerPoint with the song lyrics. Fun times for a good Christian family.
The pastor told a few anecdotes in order to try to explain Christmas, and God’s love, and how Jesus is God’s gift to us.
One of them was about a housewife who one day felt burnt-out by washing the same dishes all the time and decided to leave her family and go be independent somewhere. Like a prodigal son but, instead of a rebellious teenager, a burnt-out housewife who dared to be independent. Her husband would call her and her children would ask her to come back, and plead, and she would refuse. Eventually he hired a private detective, found her, and went to pick her up. He found her living above a restaurant, where she would work doing dishes. She followed him back home without a word. At home, she told him that he said that he cared and asked all this time, but, in the end, she was only sure of how much he cared once he bothered to actually go the distance and pick her up himself. The pastor said this is like God, who sent messages to humanity for several centuries, and humanity did not respond, until God decided to come himself in the incarnation of Jesus.
He even talked about sin, in a second metaphor, of how sin is like garbage we carry with us, which smells, and we try to hide it from people, but we can’t hide it forever. We hide that garbage in our basement for years and it fills our house with stench, and people start noticing and keeping away from us. We ourselves can’t even get close to it anymore. Then Jesus, our savior, offers to take it out for free. I didn’t relate a whole lot since I don’t have a basement, I don’t care a lot about what people think, and “Jesus can do it for free” sounds too much like a good business deal, but I trust that people there could relate and it somehow edified them a bit.
Putting aside the patriarchal and low-key misogyny overtones, the suburban worry of what people might think of you and your house, and the business deal catch of God’s Grace, I appreciate how the pastor still preached a message of a loving God who came down to display a tangible love in the incarnation, a God we can go to, regardless how ashamed or distant we feel, trusting that he will accept us and cleanse us, if only we are humble enough to admit it and invite him in.
Still, I wish he had preached the whole message.
This Gospel, the good news of the action of God in History, humbling himself, taking our sins upon himself, living life with us and suffering our death for us, continuing in steadfast loving-kindness and always ready to forgive, doesn’t end in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
We are invited to be one with Jesus, and we are called Christian only because we imitate him. The Church – all true Christians everywhere – is supposed to be the incarnation of God on Earth after Jesus of Nazareth.
In other words, if you’re a Christian, Christmas is not a time for you to simply celebrate what God did for you 2000 years ago.
Christmas is a time for you to remember you are invited to do the same. Honestly, that, if you do not do the same, you have very little reason to call yourself Christian.
So, like the Almighty God who became a poor child, humble yourself to be among those who would be considered “less” than you, and leave your privileges behind for the sake of people.
Confess your sins to the people you sinned against, and ask their forgiveness before you ask God’s. Be someone whom people will always know they can confess to, someone who will always be there to forgive.
Love in action, not just in word.
Love as Christ loved you.