How fortunate for Mary, pregnant with Jesus, that she knew nothing of what her unborn child would grow up to endure: terrible temptation by the devil in the midst of great hunger, defections of some his closest friends near the end of his life, ridicule, wrongful arrest, torture, and a death penalty monstrously enforced.
What a blessing of innocence—of what Mary did not know, for her ability to simply enjoy that first holiday-card Christmas filled with wonder and delight, warmth from the animals in the barn, an attentive caring mate, and even visitors bearing gifts.
But we know.
So it is impossible for us to simply shop ’til we drop from the after-dinner starting bell on Thanksgiving to store-closing time on Christmas Eve scoring presents for our loved ones. We are too aware of what happens after the Christ child is born.
We cannot be completely comfortable with a Hallmark version of the birth of the Savior because we are too mindful of the reason for the birth of Jesus.
Yes, we know Jesus is the “reason for the season” but we understand more: the reason for Jesus was to bring about radical change.
Although many loved the sleeping babe, we remember there were many enjoying the status quo who wanted to kill Jesus who was born to save us all from being comfortable simply making donations to Christmas baskets for the poor.
Rather, we know his birth requires that we overturn a culture of dominance where increasing the wealth of the wealthiest is easier than securing living wages for workers or where healthcare, even for children of workers, is viewed by the greedy powerful as a privilege which can be voted away as simply as they take a breath.
We know what Jesus’ birth means as we exchange gifts and hug family members and share lovingly cooked food after we pray, holding hands around our tables.
We know what is next. The justice work Jesus implores us to do. The organizing. The truth sharing. The voting. The turning upside down of the marketplace mentality that has found its way even into our places of worship. The sacrifices we are called to make. How we are to die to our human self-centeredness. How we are to break down walls not build them up.
We full well know that after a short while of cooing at the babe and grinning at each other as we sing carols, we know we are called to help carry the cross of the grown-up Jesus, the smelly bearded criminal encrusted with blood.
In Mark 13:9, Jesus is recorded as saying, “You must be careful. People will arrest you and take you to court and beat you in their synagogues. You will be forced to stand before kings and governors, to tell them about me. This will happen to you because you follow me. But before these things happen, the Good News must be told to all people.”
What is the Good News that will make some “people” so angry they will want to arrest those bringing that news? Make no mistake, it isn’t the Good News of the Hereafter that will upset some people. No. That’s not why Jesus was crucified. It’s the Good News of a very different kind of life for everyone equally in the Here and Now that many in power will receive as bad news that will anger them.
It is the Good News of healthcare for everyone. Of the right to marry as one wishes. Of equal wages for women and men and people of all races for the same work done. Of cooperation among nations of the world no longer based on military might.
We, followers of Christ, know what we are called to do. After Christmas.