By Tera Ertz
This is for those who aren’t Christian. Perhaps you are agnostic, or atheist, or one of the pagan sects, or the other myriad things you can be when it comes to faith. Perhaps you used to be a Christian but somewhere along the way you had a fight with God. It is you I need to talk to today, even if it is a day late at this hour.
I’d like to tell you a story. Almost from the beginning, the world has been a broken and dark place, filled with heartbreak, fear and loneliness. I bet you’ve felt it in your life. You’ve probably looked at the world around you and wondered how we can bear to live in a place where bombs kill women and children, where crazy people go out shooting as many people as they can before killing themselves, where fires, floods, famines, joblessness, divorce, homelessness and all manner of other miseries take place. Where is the joy in such a place as this? We weep in our solitude, or harden our hearts to try to survive the troubles that plague us and have for most of human history. We look at this place and some of us think this might just be the hell that so many civilizations have talked about through the years. We gaze around us and wonder how there could be a God if such things are possible. We shudder in the darkest recesses of our minds to think that just maybe there might indeed be a god, and the darkness of the world is a reflection of his nature.
Mankind took a while to grow up, to begin to understand the nature of the world, and the nature of the God who created it. There was a lot of hardship because we can be stubborn creatures, sometimes taking thousands of years to learn the lessons of how to live in harmony with the laws of nature that He put in place from the beginning. For thousands of years we went through cycles of seemingly getting the lessons, societies would prosper, they would fail to pass on the knowledge they’d gained, the societies would grow corrupt and complacent, and over time they would fall into chaos and ruin. But there finally came a time when mankind had grown enough they were ready for the next step, and an amazing thing happened.
A baby was born. From the standpoint of the world, this baby wasn’t anything particularly special. His parents were fairly lowly folks, his father was a craftsman by trade. His mother was a teenager. When she got pregnant, they weren’t fully married yet, and her betrothed seriously considered quietly breaking his betrothal bonds with her. He was a nice guy, so he didn’t plan to embarrass her in public, but he also didn’t want a bastard child from some other man or to be married to a woman he could not trust. But, the God who made the earth had other plans, and the baby and both his parents were part of them. He told the man not to worry, and not to be upset, that his child was going to be something amazing and that his bride had not been unfaithful, but was instead the fulfillment of the salvation that had been promised from the beginning.
Now that’s a neat story and all, but it’s not the really important part, although it is what we celebrate this day. The important part of the story is what came after. This child grew into a man. This man didn’t seek accolades, and did not come to lift himself above the world. He did not gather gold and riches and earthly powers for himself, although he could have. Instead he went into the towns and villages, walking from place to place. He spoke to them of the hope of mankind, of deliverance if they would but follow God’s will and have faith. He didn’t just use words, or speak and then wander away. He spent time in these places, healing the people when they were sick, feeding them when they were hungry, touching them when they were isolated. He didn’t hide himself away in the temples. He went to people’s houses, spoke on sea shores and mountainsides. He went to the dirty, the sick, the shunned, the sinners and offered them the hope of God. He did all that joyfully, knowing what His end would be.
Because He did not come simply to lead the righteous, because He reached out to the brokenness of the world, to folks like you and me, the powerful people of that time dogged his steps right from His birth. They chased Him down, plotted murder, and finally trumped us charges and turned Him over to the earthly authorities to do their dirty work, because, well they weren’t allowed to kill Him for His words and deeds. They hung Him on a cross, ridiculed Him as He gasped for breath, and with that breath, He forgave them even that. Three days later, He shook the very foundations of the world as He rose from the grave and walked the world once again. Forty days later, He ascended to Heaven with the promise that from that moment forward, anyone who chose to accept the gift He had paid for in blood and offered freely to all would receive in themselves a new Spirit, and a new life not just after death, but here on earth as well. He promised that no matter our situation, no matter our heartache, no matter our sins, no matter what the world thinks of us, He would love us and begin immediately to make us whole in Him.
That is the joyous spirit of Christmas. That is what makes me merry today and every day. It is the best gift I have ever received. It is the only one that has never broken, gone out fashion, or been forgotten on a shelf. It is the Good News that I can be more than the world thinks I am, and I am made whole no matter what comes. So, my friends, particularly those who do not know this child I’ve been telling you about, let me introduce you to my Savior, my King, Jesus Christ. He stepped into the mess we’ve made of this place to show each of us the way home. If you’re lonely, if you’re heartsick, if there is a place inside you that weeps and you don’t quite know why, I invite you to come and see. He doesn’t care if you’re sick, or poor, or rich, or single or married, or an unwed mother. He won’t shun you because you’ve gone to jail, had an abortion, had sex, done drugs, or any of the other things that others might look down on you for. He won’t be angry because you’ve turned away, or turned elsewhere, and He won’t despise you because you still have questions. He weeps for your life, and He’s just waiting to wash you clean, and send you His Spirit so that you too can be merry no matter what comes. This year, my greatest wish is that it truly will be a Merry Christmas for All. Be blessed my friends, and be a blessing.