If you hadn’t noticed, I have been focusing on the idea of giving for this Christmas series of blogs. I have talked about the simple gifts we encounter in life, the actual gift of being alive. I lingered on the grinch and how to offer gifts to those grinches in our lives. Sunday I explored the idea of discovering the gifts the universe has given you. Today I will bring things back into focus for the time of year.
As churches galore remind us - Jesus is the reason for the season. Regardless of whether you are a follower of Jesus or not, there is no avoiding the season of Christmas. Living in the US and avoiding Christmas is like living in Houston and avoiding humidity. No matter how little you are interested in participating in it, avoidance is impossible. Christmas is here.
Please don’t think I am about to begin proselytizing, because I am not. As much as this blog tackles human issues in a spiritualized way, it is not about religion. The Christmas season doesn’t seem to be much about religion either anymore. Our society tends to focus more on tradition and family than the idea of church. Sure, church happens during the holidays, but I am sure no one would be surprised to know that church attendance spikes right around Christmas. This jump doesn’t happen because people suddenly become religious - they aren’t - they go because they always have; it is tradition.
What is also tradition is celebrating the birth of the Christ child. Nativities pop up like wildflowers in April. Some houses have one, some have many. Some church groups have fun with the live Nativity. We have a few at home - we even have an abstract one I really like.
The whole point of the Nativity scene is to remind us that the season is intended to center around Christ. According to the Bible and tradition, Jesus came to the Earth to be born, to live, and then to be sacrificed and die for us, cleansing the human race of sin. Christmas celebrates the first part of the story - the initial giving of the gift of Christ from God.
The birth of Christ did not only only result in his death on the cross. Some argue that Christ’s life was more significant than his birth or his death. The teachings found in the Gospels are blueprints for living, guiding readers towards a more humanist approach, rather than a selfish one. Living as the Gospel’s teach means living a caring, giving, loving life.
Many Christians today are eager and waiting for the second coming of Christ. They scour the scriptures for evidence of when and where. The Left Behind book series follows a group of post-rapture survivors as the fight to survive until the second coming. Most believe in an apocalyptic course of events ending with the Judgement where the wheat and the chaff will be sorted and dealt with accordingly. Christ will return and slay his enemies and lead a newly reborn Earth into the millennial kingdom.
In the 1990s, the phrase WWJD became popular, originating amongst Evangelical Christians as a reminder to follow the moral imperative defined in the Gospel writings. In any given situation, you were instructed to consider what would Jesus do; the resulting answer would be based on scriptural evidence from Jesus’ teachings. While no Christian teaching I have ever encountered suggests that anyone can truly live a sinless life as the Gospels say Christ did, following the outlines of the WWJD principal can certainly bring you closer.
Instead of waiting for Christ to come again and cleanse the world of wrong doers and evil, allow yourself to be the second coming of Christ. Work to see his spirit in every thought and deed, be driven by the same pure, humanist motivation, find comfort and peace in treating others as you would be treated. Christ told his followers that the kingdom of heaven is at hand - nothing has changed. All this is possible and more.
God’s gift to the world was more than just a death, it is the possibility of life. The potential for living exists in every single one of us. Every moment we choose whether or not to access that potential. Find the opportunities to truly live and honor the gift we have been given.