This is the day that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, the man Jim Wallis describes as “a political threat.” Why would he say that?
I am a Christian and what Christmas means to me is this: In Christ, God hit the streets. Immanuel means God with us.
It’s not just that God came, but how God came. It wasn’t accidental that the savior of the world was born to a poor peasant woman in an occupied country in an animal stall because they were literally homeless at the time of his birth. And soon Jesus and his family were made refugees and had to flee their country because the most powerful political ruler around the Christ child felt very threatened by his coming.
Wallis goes on to say that the particular threat Jesus posed to the status quo is captured in one of our favorite Christmas carols.
….Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
That is the part of the gospel that has gotten lost. When it comes to Jesus, modern day Christianity focuses almost exclusively on his birth and death, forgetting much of what he did during his life. That is why one of my Christmas traditions is to remember what kid oakland wrote thirteen years ago.
Let me tell you something about the Jesus that I know.
He was a real man. Born in a poor region to working poor parents. He loved learning, he loved his mother and his father.
But he left them and spent his life with the poor, the outcast, the rejected, the defiled, the sick, the sinners, the bedraggled, the bereft, the self-hating, the lonely, the banished, the foul, the miserable, the desperate and finally, those sick with their own power.
He did this, not because of his ideology or his creed. He did this not because of his doctrine. He did this, quite simply, because he loved them. He preferred them.
Their company, their stories, their lives, their environs, their plight and their faith.
And they loved him. Because he touched them. He looked them in the eye and believed in them. Because, at the end of the day, when they looked to him they saw that his commitment to them was a commitment unsullied by qualifier or clause. It was a commitment to love them, even upon pain of death. And they saw in him, a love that promised to love them as they were, who they were…fully, without judgement or flinching glance, or hypocritical accomodation.
This man, Jesus, was surrounded by friends and disciples whom he mentored….not by carping or enforcing rules…but by example and teaching. By the force of his actions. By his resolute commitment to the least, the smallest, the most in need.
Perhaps you can see why someone like that would pose a threat. He was clearly a radical.
This is not the Jesus that most people celebrate today. But perhaps someday at Christmas…