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The Crisis of Christmas

Pastor Jaynan Clark

December, 2010

photo of Pastor Jaynan ClarkRecently one of my friends posted to my Facebook a rather revealing and cutting Christmas message that she knew I would enjoy. I don't know the original source but it was to be addressed to the "liberals and the conservatives." While I did not change the original quote I am addressing it differently.

To those conformed to this world:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2011 but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

To those being transformed by Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit:

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Christmas is the problem because Jesus is the problem and He always has been (and always will be until time ends). Whichever account of the Christmas story you turn to, you hear how the setting and characters and acceptance and recognition of Christmas has not changed in 2000 years. God's intention was to humble the proud, raise up the lowly, feed the hungry and turn away the rich empty. This Mary knew before Jesus was born. The government officials were forcing folks to travel in order to register-so numbers and taxes and, of course, buying and selling of wares was involved. There were crowds and stress and no vacancy signs; travelers away from home without accommodations, wandering, restless and without peace; animals doing their business in the straw and into this God is born in Jesus a vulnerable, cold, little baby. He was (and still is) coming into this wretched, stressed world ill-timed and unrecognized with only the dirty, stinky shepherds divinely ushered to the front row seats. Herod, the rich and powerful one, was already planning open season on Him and the prophets have spoken of His rejection, suffering and death. Happy Birthday Jesus!

How is that picture of Christmas any different than today? Sure we have those trying to get rid of the word Christmas but really the problem is "Christ." They are today's Herods joined by today's Pharisees, church leaders and everyday sinners unwilling to bow their knee to anyone who claims authority over them. Certainly this one is to be rejected because He comes from a lowly birth and certainly even today's finest "Christian" theologians think anyone who still believes Mary to have been a "virgin" is a hillbilly theologian at best. They obviously prefer that Jesus was born illegitimate rather than consider the possibility of the impossible in God's hands not their own. How then do they confess the Apostle's Creed among the cloud of witnesses? The hypocrisy and deceit of Herod lives on but so does the angel choir and the shepherds' stories. Join me this Christmas in turning away from the preaching, teaching and confessing of all those who by their words reject the One Word of God who still comes today into the worst of conditions, to the lowest of sinners, in the most disgustingly common of ways---a Word preached, a loaf broken, a sip from the vine. For the Prince of Peace is the only peace, yet He dwells in unrest, confusion, rejection and darkness as the only light. He does not save you from this world but He dwells with you in it and your salvation resides in Him-the only "inn" with room.

So to all those who continue to conform to this world within and outside of so called churches. . . know that Jesus is not "the church". . . He is not "religion". . . He is not "organized and institutional". . . He is not politically correct or acceptable. . . He is broken and scarred and raised from the dead so that His continued rejection and dismissal by His "own world that knows Him not", only makes the continued setting of Christmas as relevant and timely today as in Bethlehem long ago.

Merry Christmas!---indeed it has such a contemporary ring to it!