I still call it Christmas.
I’m told you’re not supposed to do that any more.
You’re not supposed to do a lot of things.
Forget the religion called Christianity for a moment.
Ignore the historical blunders of Christians.
I’m talking about Christmas.
Those opening few sentences are going to land me in real trouble unless you judge me by my motives.
1. I still call it Christmas because, according to Luke’s telling1, the angels didn’t appear to government officials or religious leaders. They chose instead to illuminate the darkness of lonely people working the night shift for minimum wage. They appeared to sack-lunch shepherds guarding defenseless sheep.
I think that’s cool.
The message of those angels was essentially this, “Good news! God likes you and he has a plan to rescue you – and everyone else on this planet – out of this crazy mess you’re in.”
Even if you consider these stories to be fairy tales, they’re worth a look. Christmas is our biggest holiday.
2. John’s Christmas story2 skips Bethlehem altogether, choosing instead to connect the birth of Jesus to that chapter in Genesis3 where God speaks our universe into existence:
“In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word was God. The Word was in the beginning with God. All things were made by the Word; without Him was not any thing made that was made… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
3. Matthew4 doesn’t mention the shepherds of Luke or connect the pre-incarnate Jesus to the creation of the universe like John, but his is the only Christmas story that mentions the wise men, the magi. They didn’t see any angels and we’re not told why they chose to follow that star. We know only that they made an extremely difficult journey and never gave up hope. They were foreigners who believed in something the locals no longer believed in.
I have an abiding fascination with these wise men, the magi. So did Chesterton.
“The more we are proud that the Bethlehem story is plain enough to be understood by the shepherds, and almost by the sheep, the more do we let ourselves go, in dark and gorgeous imaginative frescoes or pageants about the mystery and majesty of the Three Magian Kings.”
– G.K. Chesterton, Christendom in Dublin, Ch.3 (1933)
4. I believe magi still walk among us today.
Following a bright star of hope, they continue to make difficult journeys.
They’re not looking for someone to “make America great again.”
They think America – for all its flaws – is pretty great already.
They still believe in the American Dream.
And if you are wise,
you believe in it, too.
many years ago,
a good person said to your ancestors,
“Merry Christmas, immigrants.
Welcome to America.”
She was a statue on an island, a gift from France.
And the poem at her feet whispers to all the earth,
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses
yearning to breathe free. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Roy H. Williams
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