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Welcome Christmas Gets Real

One of my favorite traditions this time of year is watching Dr. Suess’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  I love everything about it, especially the song “Welcome Christmas” which figures prominently.  It’s such a joyful song.  And why not?  I mean, unless you’re a Grinch, what’s not to love about Christmas?  The music, candles, lights, presents, etc.   And this is true even when such welcome requires work, which it inevitably does.   Do you remember those Whos in “Who-ville?”  Boy they get with it.  Nobody sitting around.  Everyone up and decorating and cleaning and wrapping.   Welcoming Christmas is joy, but it’s hard work too.

Advent strikes a similar note as we seek to welcome not Christmas the holiday, but Christ the savior.  Advent enhances our anticipation of this child who really is our hope and salvation, but it also reminds us that preparing for Christ’s arrival requires work.  It requires us, as the prophets state, to make the “rough places plain,” and that there is much such work to be done in our hearts and in our world.  John spells this out even clearer in his challenge to “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near.”  Yes, that other theme of Advent, the one we don’t always lean into, is the one that reminds us that among Christ’s many words of grace are words about the opportunity to change and to become better, to become more of who we are as the children of god that we are intended to be.  And living up to that will not always be easy.

Jesus makes this clear later on when he says what we call the “hard” words, because they are.    “You have heard it said..,” he said.  And when we hear him say that, we wince, because we know what’s coming next.  “Turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, etc.”

These are hard words, especially now, especially when enemies and persecutors seem so easily defined.  I will let you wrestle with how we should apply such words to those doing so much destruction today.  But I will dare to say one thing.  There is simply no gospel grounding for transferring whatever fear and anger we have toward our enemies onto those who are running from the same enemies or ones like them.  Some have said that Jesus never mentions refugees specifically.  He didn’t have to.  He mentions the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger.  Last time I checked refugees qualify as all of the above.  And then he goes on to say, As you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me.

And this season reminds us that undoubtedly at least one such person or family knew what that was like in very literal terms.  Who were they, do you imagine?   A Bedouin shepherd?  A north Egyptian delta farmer and his family?  Maybe both.  What was it like for them to welcome a young Palestinian refugee couple and their baby boy, who were fleeing terror?  Was there tension being that Jews and Egyptians were historical enemies?  Were there worries that there would not be enough to go around?  Were there suspicions that these newcomers might be up to no good, might even be dangerous? Whatever the valid reasons to turn away this family might have been, and I’m sure there were many, whoever welcomed Mary and Joseph and Jesus to Egypt, and gave them sanctuary, fought through those objections and in so doing hosted even more than angels unaware. They welcomed Christ. 

The Who’s in Who-ville remind us to Welcome Christmas.  Advent reminds us to Welcome Christ.  And this year…that’s become real.   Issues are hard.  We control so little.  But we control ourselves.  This Advent, as best we can, let us welcome the least of these whoever they may be.  Let us welcome Christ.

Grace, David


This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge and originally published in the December edition of Together.
Posted by Bridget Ellis at 7:00 PM
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