While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:15-17
I guess I am not a big fan of the whole “stealing Christmas” notion. You know, the news stories about how this city or that school has outlawed nativity scenes and has thus “stolen Christmas” from those of us who are religious and who want those things in the public square. Or that neighbors or co-workers have a “Holiday Tree” instead of a Christmas tree, and thus have stolen Christmas from us. Or that our secular society makes more noise about the commercial side of the season than about the spiritual side and, thus, has somehow stolen Christmas from those of us who are spiritual. The whole idea of “stealing” is that someone to whom the thing did NOT belong removed it from someone to whom the thing DID belong. But, to whom does Christmas belong? If it is all about the coming Christ child, for whom did He come?
It is clear enough why Jesus came. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” This is clear not only because Jesus said this in such certain terms. It is also clear by how he spent his time, and with whom he spent his time, and by how he taught, and by how he seemed to think. Nobody would ever accuse Jesus of coming just for the religious people or of catering to them in any way at all. Every hopeful message, every encouraging lesson, every positive action seemed to be obviously aimed at everyone BUT the religious people. The only messages and actions he ever aimed at the religious people were harsh warnings and angry outbursts. The signs were overwhelming…Jesus did not come for the people who were already successful at doing church. He came for everyone else.
As an aside, I wonder if the same can be said of Jesus’ church today? When people look at the church, is it clear for whom it exists? Does our behavior show unmistakably why we are here? I am not asking here whether your church or mine has a catchy mission statement, nor whether our website is updated nor whether we have the right kind of music in our worship services. I’m not asking here what Bible translation we use nor whether we are meeting our budget. The question I am asking, the question I believe Jesus demands that we ask, is whether people on the outside of our churches can look at us and easily recognize that we and Jesus share a common objective, that we’re clearly on the same page. I wonder if the people looking at your church and at my church can watch how we behave and can listen to the things we say and know clearly and exactly whom we are here for? It was so very clear with Jesus. Is it so very clear with the church?
So if the whole reason this long-awaited savior came is for the very broken people in this world, then isn’t it those same broken people to whom Christmas belongs? Is Christmas really yours or mine? Is it really even the church’s? Or is Christmas rather representative of the only real hope the atheists and criminals and secularists and sinners of this world will ever have? Christmas belongs to them!
Tell you what…next time someone “wins” and your city has to take down its nativity scene, just smile and say to yourself, “Well it’s about time they finally came and took what is theirs.” And rejoice! Christmas was yours to share all along.
One response to “Who’s Stealing Christmas from Whom?”
Is there really anyone who does not really know how the majority of churches are perceived by the world? Since I am on the outside looking in…. maybe I can shed some light. My family was once turned away from a Christmas concert…. even though we had tickets…the cold faces explained we could not come in and they shut the door literally in our faces. I was frustrated due to the amount of energy we had put into getting there, but now as I remember it just makes me so sad…. not for us.. but for all the “outsiders” who are regularly rejected by churches. Those sinful, smelly, homeless, poor, addicted, strange, unlovely… whatever… people whom the Lord loves dearly but are consistently absent from such church celebrations…. or even regular worship services for that matter. The message that church is for the beautiful people, by the beautiful people is clearly portrayed. And even if you get in there is an “in crowd” and then there are the rest. This should not be.
I was thinking this week about how ridiculous this all is. Christmas as it is celebrated currently has very little to do with the Kingdom. My prayer/hope is that the Lord will change us. If not us, at least me. That my heart will follow Him as He shows me more and more what Christmas and every day should really be like. May it be so, Lord!