‘Tis the season to be jolly ~ Falalalala Lalalala!’
Christmas is here!
In spite of all the mess, all the muddle, all the materialism, at its heart, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ into our hurting, broken world. It is about abundant grace. Oxygenated grace, writer Ann Voskamp calls it. Mirth in the midst of mystery. A miracle worth singing about.
God animated Mirth – a depth of joy, delight, laughter and knowing, an understanding of our need for something so powerful to strike our very being into sheer awe and wonder. So we sing, Falalala Lalalala. We rejoice because we could never imagine God would care so much. That He would choose to come down. In Jesus.
This is what Christians believe. And this is at the heart of what we celebrate this season: the birth of Jesus, God become man in the most crazy but awesome script ever written. Laughter and love wrapped up in swaddling clothes in a rough-hewn manger. A moment of eternity burst into the human condition calling out to every man, woman and child, “I love you.”
Here are three reasons I believe Christmas really is JOY to the WORLD, a deeply multicultural celebration for all people:
1 | The Endurance Factor: Jesus is still going strong 2018 years since his birth.
In spite of all the imperfection of the Christian church, God’s still at work in and through it. And, although some may contest the claim that “the Bible is the best-selling book of all time,” there is little doubt it is among the most widely known, distributed, read and referenced books, even in the 21st century.
The subject of the Bible throughout is Jesus. Even when he is not mentioned explicitly, foreshadowings and prophesies of Jesus Christ weave throughout the Old Testament. And of course, he plays the lead role in the New Testament. If you choose to read through the Bible in the coming year with this understanding in mind, you will see everything in a new light. Try it.
The hope of Jesus strikes a chord in the human heart, and it’s not limited to people who grew up in “Christian” cultures or families. In fact, more and more people globally, especially on the continents of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, are embracing Jesus with enthusiasm and hope.
That makes the entrance of God-become-man through the baby born in a rough-hewn manger 2018 years ago something to truly celebrate – whether in the mountains of the Himalayas among a small group of often-persecuted Christian believers, or in the cathedrals of Europe. Whether in the simple but packed gatherings of Christians in Shanghai, or along the coastlands of Brazil.
For even with all the noise attempting to block out the true celebration – whether it be commercialism, persecution, secularism or something else – Emmanuel, or God-with-us, will still receive much attention all around the world this Christmas.
2 | The Christian Church is global.
Some will point to the decline of Christianity in the West and conclude that Jesus is on the way out. But a closer look reveals something magnificent going on.
True, Western society has, in so many ways, become inured to the miracle of Jesus. But this is not true in much of the world. In fact, although Islam is the fastest-growing religion in 2018 due mostly to births, Christianity remains the fasted growing worldwide due to choice – people who make a decision to commit their life to following Jesus.
While belief in Jesus first took hold in the West, Christianity has now become a much more “southern” faith, with 43% of Africans, 5% (and projected to grow to 10% by 2050) in China, and significant growth in several other Asian, South Asian and Middle Eastern nations – this in spite of significant persecution.
And there are pockets of revival in the West as well. Witness these healthy, vibrant and growing churches in the major metropolitan areas of San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and Chicago. (These links are just examples.)
3 | Jesus offers a pathway for all – no discrimination.
Now, this may be seen as a bit controversial at first. After all, haven’t so many bad things happened in the name of Christianity – and in the name of Jesus?
Well, yes. Certainly this is true by people who’ve made the choice to follow their baser instincts. In the Christian faith, this is called either “falling to temptation” or “following the sins of the flesh.” In the latter case, the distinction here is between flesh and spirit. When you are filled with God’s Spirit, you can choose to resist the temptation before you. It’s always a choice.
The fact that God elected to plant faith in imperfect humans means there will always be problems. But if you look at Jesus? Really study what he said and did? You will discover a deep heart of compassion, generosity and love without discrimination, sin and stain.
Jesus is where our eyes should be.
That homeless person? Jesus loves her. That filthy rich person? Jesus loves him. That person with skin as dark as night? Jesus loves her. And that person profaning God’s name? Jesus even loves him.
But what about all those other faith traditions?
It has become fashionable in recent years in the U.S. and much of the West to give equal airtime to the celebrations of all cultures and faiths. And, as an interculturalist myself, I can truly appreciate the opportunity we have to learn about and maybe even participate in some of the celebrations and holidays our fellow human beings cherish.
But as a Christ-follower who takes my faith seriously, I know God calls me to love and appreciate others, no matter what background or belief, but not necessarily adopt that belief as my own. If there is a chance my participation might lead another astray or push me away from the God I love, I must stop. That’s where I draw the line.
So Hanukkah, Eid or Ramadan, Diwali or Holi, or any of the Buddhist holidays? Yes, there is a place for them in a pluralistic society. Those who are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist have every right to celebrate their traditions.
And Kwanzaa? Well, it’s not really a religious holiday but, rather, a celebration of the culture of several African nations. In all of these cases, for the society at large, these celebrations add color and offer opportunities for all to learn.
But this season? I choose to celebrate Christmas, not just the shiny-objects-on-the-tree type of Christmas, but the real deal: God’s love come down, in Jesus.