Today celebrates the birth of Christ Jesus, the Son of God come to Man for the forgiveness of our sins and the reconcilation of Man with God. This simple proposition has found opposition ever since its first suggestion,and in modern times the very concept of Christianity comes under fire for all manner of supposed evils; the essentials of Christianity are all too often ignored in order to pillory the people leading the faith.
Of course, the rise of mega-churches has led to a peculiar interpretation of the Gospel mesage. Far too many of these self-praising palaces emphasize the pursuit of earthly success, while doing little if anything to remind their members to think of the less fortunate around them. This leads to congregations which are outwardly successful, but wondering why their faith is so weak.
Over on Beliefnet, I have seen a lot of attacks on the Christian faith , deriding it as no better than any other, indeed no different in history or source than many Babylonian and Pagan myths. This is a pretty thinly-veiled attempt to bring those cults up to the moral level of Christianity, but it’s not true.
The whole notion of Christianity was radical for its time. The very notion that the Kingdom of God would have nothing to do with the affairs and priorities of Man, was a revolt against the order of every regime controlled by Man. And the notion that forgiveness was freely given by God to all of His creatures, so that the rituals and complex doctrines of established dogmas was not at all necessary for someone whose heart sought God in truth, was unacceptable to the traditional establishment. Jesus was, in word and action, an observant Jew, an obedient subject to the Romans, and an innocent man. Yet he was hated by most of the Sanhedrin, by the Roman authorities, and by many men, simply because he taught a truth greater than they could control. And a generation after his crucifixion, His followers were quite willing to die for their faith, rather than recant. After Constantine came to power, Christianity gained human favor, and with it temporal power and wealth which has changed in nature and character, but has never quite returned to the original faith of the disciples, except at the individual level, as Christ always taught.
So it is, that many people do not really know Jesus Christ. They see the politics, the money, the history of one church or denomination. It might do, then, to remind people of the Christ whose birth is celebrated today:
God, desiring to reach men directly, took on human form and limitations. This is why we say “The Trinity”, because the Father remained Sovereign in Heaven, but sent His Son Jesus to live as man.
Deserving by his person to live in luxury and comfort, Jesus instead accepted the mean birth in a stable, and a life of relative poverty and disadvantage. This continued all through his life, as men who should have seen him as the promised King of Kings, instead rejected Him, and men who ought to have bowed prostrate in His presence, arranged instead to murder Him. Yet Jesus did not even condemn them for this, but forgave them as the paramount example of mercy and forbearance.
Jesus lived the perfect life by example, and taught the Kingdom of Heaven. He spoke to crowds, but His message was always to the individual, and is a message of hope and solace.
After his death, Jesus rose from the dead, but neither avenged Himself on His enemies, nor sought to overthrow the human order. Instead, he showed Himself to His believers as a sign of His power, but commanded them to spread the Gospel in love and hope and mercy.
That is the child we celebrate today. Far too scary for many to face.