27 December 2016

Pope Francis' War on Christmas

The culture wars against Christmas rage onward.

People get upset over Starbucks cups or worked up over "Happy Holidays" vs. "Merry Christmas." 

Children are being slaughtered in Aleppo or dying from diarrhea because of drinking contaminated water. Women and young children are sold into slavery and used as sex slaves at alarming rates. Almost half of the world-almost 3 billion people-live on less than $2.50 a day. Countries treat war like a well-planned chess game instead of the horror and devastation it is for those affected by it.

Sorry, but I really don't think God cares about the stupid cultural "War on Christmas."

The real war on Christmas is indifference. The real war on Christmas is coldness of heart.

A week before Christmas I stumbled onto some strong words from the Holy Father on the charade of Christmas this year. I still find myself going back to them; wrestling and reflecting on what it means.

"It's all a charade. The world has not understood the way of peace. The whole world is at war." Francis continued, "A war can be justified, so to speak, with many, many reasons, but when all the world as it is today, at war, piecemeal though that war may be-a little here, a little there-there is no justification."

"The world continues to go to war. The world has not chosen a peaceful path. There are wars today everywhere, and hate," said Pope Francis. " We should ask for the grace to weep for this world, which does not recognize the path to peace. To weep for those who live for war and have the cynicism to deny it."

"God weeps; Jesus weeps."

There is no reading between the lines here, the message is clear. 
Christmas that ignores suffering is not really Christmas. 

For Francis, Christmas is less about glad tidings of comfort and joy, and more about encountering and walking with those who are greatly afflicted by pain and suffering. 
It is about accompanying people through whatever mess they are facing.

I think especially in the western world, it can be so easy to domesticate and sanitize Christmas. Sometimes I miss when I am doing it; it can happen so easily.

Christmas isn't pretty, shiny, and wrapped up perfectly with a big red bow. 
Christmas is about brokenness, messiness. No one expected the Messiah to be born into poverty, obscurity, and exclusion, far away from power and wealth.

At Christmas, Jesus comes all the way down into messiness of human dysfunction-the violence, the sinfulness, the hatred, the racism, and the wars. This holiday, this holy day calls us out of comfort into discomfort.
And facing each of those head-on can be uncomfortable.

The world today is blinded by all kinds of hate. Blinded by finding our security in nuclear weapons and war games. Blinded by our indifference, coldness of heart, and legalism.

I know I do not understand fully what it means to be a peacemaker as Jesus spoke about during his earthly ministry. I know I do not fully understand the pain or suffering of refugees, the imprisoned, black lives, migrant lives, and LGBT lives. 

The 12 days of Christmas are upon us. It is a time of celebrating and joy. But we (I) have to make room for weeping. 

Weeping with Jesus for what we have turned his world into. 

Weeping for my own indifference, whatever it looks like.

Weeping for my cold heart.

Weeping for the sins of our world.

Yes the whole world is at war. Our future President is perhaps calling for a nuclear arms race
But the state of the world reflects the state of our own hearts in a lot of different ways.

I need to be honest with myself, with Jesus about the state of my own heart.
When I am more loving and less indifferent, I think I become a little more of the person God wants me to become.

Let's stop getting worked up about coffee cups and the cashier at Kroger wishing you "Happy Holidays."

Let's look at our hearts and see where the have grown cold or indifferent.

Because that is the real war on Christmas.

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