It’s about the poor and left out. That’s the main message of Christmas–doesn’t matter what religion or beliefs you hold, the center of this crazy, shopping-exhausted, fueled-by-adrenaline partied, frenzied decorated, over-the-top worship-extravaganzad day is that invisible, lonely, cast-out, poor and powerless people matter.
We just tend to forget that in the stampede for the “perfect” Christmas, be it gift, meal, family, event or decor.
Christmas is about the minimum-wage person who exhaustedly checked you out on the last-minute shopping.
Christmas is about the “undeserving” poor, who are currently the object of much disdain.
Christmas is about the people who are on the verge of losing food supplement help and are grateful for even the least favorable package on the subsidized and much maligned Affordable Care Act.
Christmas is about the mentally ill who too often end up incarcerated because at least it gets them off the streets and they are fed and housed, although not treated.
Christmas is about the people who work in clothing factories in Asia, the children born to prisoners in North Korean prison camps and bred to be slaves themselves, the undocumented residents in the US who live in fear of being discovered, those very ones who care for the lawns, houses and babies of those who, if they knew the truth, would actually be very threatened by this thing we call “Christmas.”
You see, Christmas is about the Great Reversal.
Mary, mother of Jesus, sang a song upon having her pregnancy confirmed by her old and very pregnant cousin Elizabeth. Mary’s song echoed many others in the Scriptures, and especially a song that Hannah sang when she, too, found out she was pregnant and would give birth to a special child, later named Samuel.
Right after Mary (and Hannah) gives thanks to God for having remembered her, and knowing that she would always been seen as special and blessed by God, she says things like: “God’s mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.”
Let’s try this in normal-speak, rather than Bible-speak.
God is kind and generous to those who acknowledge that God is God and live in a way that centers on God, not themselves. The strength of the Holy One is such that those who think they are really god themselves are going to be in for a shock, because there is a God-shaped reality far beyond what their puny little imaginations can conceive of–and they’ll have to face It someday. Furthermore, the overly-rich, overly-insulated, overly-self-indulgent without regard for the suffering and impoverished are going to find themselves very much on the outs when the Real shows up and all this pretend power gets shown for what it is: a sham and a shame.
It’s really not all that nice a message. Unless you happen to be one of the have-nots. And then, it is a wonderful, freeing, hopeful, joy-filled message.
The angels said to those terrified, outcast shepherds, “There is good news of a great joy–liberation, freedom has come at last! Give thanks to God and know that God sends peace on earth to those whom God loves and is pleased.”
The celebration of Christmas is above all a celebration of liberation for the imprisoned and a renewal of hope for the hopeless. This is the great joy that awaits us, and this joy lasts so much longer than the momentary happiness of shiny new toys and articles of clothing or decoration to be shoved into already over-stuffed closets and shelves.
It’s the gift of freedom–freedom to love again and freedom to live again.
And it is worth celebrating.
Christmas Blessings to All!