Every Christmas Eve at my house, four generations gather in a circle, hold hands and sing Happy Birthday to The King of Kings and The Prince of Peace. Then we each name what we will give Jesus the following year.
We know the precious story of a starlit night, a stable, shepherds and fluffy sheep. We can picture the Sweet Baby Jesus asleep in a manger.
Fast forward a couple of years. The newborn is now a toddler wrapped in his mother’s embrace as he and his parents flee possible death. We don’t write books or sing many songs about this story.
No sweetness is found in the shedding of innocents’ blood. Rushed departure. No angels singing. No bright starlit night. I believe this Middle Eastern family’s flight was made under the shadow of angel’s wings.
Today Middle Eastern families again are fleeing death. I hear many creative ways to justify not receiving these refugees.
This saddens me because some people who post reasons on Facebook why we can’t shelter these families are the same ones who post about how we need to put Christ back into Christmas. They believe we should wish each other a Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays will not do. It’s not Christian enough.
Jesus said we would be known by our love. I don’t get the offense of being wished happiness! I do get the offense of allowing our neighbors to die on roadsides. I am offended that we celebrate the birth of Peace on Earth while watching people die as they flee their countries.
Why do we celebrate Christmas, good Christians? We celebrate that babe in the manger who grew to show us God’s way. An agnostic friend once said to me, “I get Jesus; I just don’t get his people.” I understood that.
What matter is the brouhaha over his birth if we are not willing to take up the cross and follow him?
Therefore, I say this—let us cease our celebrations unless it is done in the Light of God’s intention: That we love God with our totality and love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
In Luke 10: 24-34, one who sought to justify himself asked the question “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus’ answer was so brilliant it stuck for millennia and falls into our laps this night as a Christmas present: Everyone is our neighbor.
Inez Torres Davis is director for justice for Women of the ELCA.