Naughty or Nice

As Christmas comes rocketing toward us one more time, it is wonderful to reflect on this “most wonderful time of the year,” but it always raises a few questions for me: why is it so hard to maintain “Christmas cheer” and “goodwill” the rest of the year? Why does hatred and violence keep such a hold on our culture and world when the Prince of Peace has come? Why are virtues of kindness, compassion, caring, and sacrifice so often viewed as weaknesses instead of strengths, and why after over 2000 years do so many who call themselves Christian work so hard to deny almost everything Jesus taught and modeled? Ho, ho, ho.

I mean, let’s keep this simple. God is love. Jesus is God. The Holy Spirit is God and the essential and ethereal aspect of love in our lives. We sin against the Holy Spirit and it is clarity that God is not with us as author, offspring, or advocate. So, love is our baseline. And love expresses itself in kindness, sacrifice, generosity, grace and forgiveness, mercy and justice, tolerance and forbearance. Killing people is not love. Judging people is not love. Hating people is not love. Standing apathetically by is not love. Ignoring people is not love. Gossip is not love. Political divisiveness is not love. Arrogance, greed, and selfishness is not love. Need I go on?

Have we really just been kidding ourselves for the past few millennia (yes, I am including our Jewish heritage as well — God was God then, too) and do we really just not want to be Christian? I mean, come on. Human beings are pretty simple (complex) creatures. If benefits outweigh costs, we happily do something. When costs outweigh benefits, not so much. So, obviously the benefits of selfishness, hostility, judgmentalism, intolerance, bigotry, apathy, and aggression far outweigh Christian charity and love or we would see a very different church and world. The “right” to own and use an assault weapon would never be debated because love doesn’t win through violence. We wouldn’t be divided along political party lines because all people would actually be committed to a common good characterized by justice, equity, compassion, and the welfare of all God’s children. We wouldn’t be so fixated on the sins of others because we would all be dedicated to grace and acceptance. In a world of abundance and excess, there would be no hunger, no homelessness, no oppression, no poverty. In a world where Christmas is actually true, we would see a very different reality. It breaks my heart.

People who self-identify as Christian write to me to tell me that I am going to hell, that I am doing the devil’s work, that I am evil. The reasons? I believe in giving felons a second chance. I don’t believe punishment is the best option for people with crippling addictions. I believe that all God’s children are of value and worth, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or educational status. I believe in love, and it drives many Christians to rage and condemnation.

I think this is why I hold such a tenacious and desperate grip on the hope of Christmas. I believe love is possible, a love that can transform the world and result in peace and justice. I believe that God intends joy and security and safety and fulfillment for all people. I want Christmas to be. I don’t want to waste my life trying to decide who is naughty and who is nice (leave that to Santa). Christmas means that God’s will is greater than who is right and who is wrong, who is good and who is bad, who belongs and who should be shunned and reviled. My greatest hope and deepest prayer is that we might get over ourselves, stop being so selfish and hateful, and might care as much for others as we care for ourselves and pretend to care for God. I’ll let you know if I get what I want this Christmas.

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