How fortunate for Mary, pregnant with Jesus, that she knew nothing about what her unborn child would grow up to endure: terrible temptation by the devil in the midst of great hunger, defection of close friends near the end of his life, ridicule, wrongful arrest, torture, and a death penalty monstrously enforced.
What a blessing of innocence, of not knowing, of simply enjoying whatever wonder and delight could be eked out of an uncomfortable ride to a barn on that first cold Christmas-card night with warmth from the animals, an attentive mate, and visitors bearing gifts.
But we know.
So it is not possible for us to simply shop ’til we drop— from the after-Thanksgiving-dinner starting bell to store-closing the night before Santa’s arrival— scoring presents for our loved ones. We are too aware of what happens after Christmas.
We cannot be too comfortable with the Hallmark version of the Savior’s birth because we are too mindful of the reason for Jesus. Yes, we know Jesus is the “reason for the season” but we understand more: the reason for Jesus was change.
Though many adored the sleeping babe, the powerful enjoyed the status quo. The babe born to save us all from being comfortable simply donating to Christmas baskets for the poor was in immediate danger.
Because his birth required the overturn of cultures of dominance in which increasing the wealth of the wealthiest is easier than securing living wages for workers, where healthcare— even for children of workers— is viewed as an arbitrary removable privilege.
While we exchange gifts and hug family members and share lovingly cooked food after we pray, holding hands around our tables, we don’t forget what the birth of Jesus means to us.
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 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 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’s the Good News of healthcare for everyone, the right to marry as one wishes, equal wages for women and men and people of all races for the same work done, and of cooperation among nations of the world no longer based on military might. They are angry, but we do not stop.
We, followers of Christ, know what we are called to do. After Christmas.