If Jesus had been born today…what would the fact checkers say? What would happen, 2017, if this would be the time Jesus was born, instead of 2000 years ago? Wouldn’t it be something like this?
The White house press secretary made a statement this afternoon. “As many news outlets recorded, the Messiah was supposedly born today in Bethlehem of Judea. We have done our own fact checking on the news and stories about this event and come to the following conclusions:
- A Virgin birth is not scientifically possible. Period.
- The “Star of Bethlehem” is merely an astrological convergence of the planets Venus and Jupiter in the morning sky.
- While we do acknowledge the possibility of Shepherds watching their flocks by night, the chance of them leaving the herd unattended to visit such a child during the vulnerable night hours is unthinkable. They would lose their jobs for such a stunt.
- And, concerning the three wise men from the East, well, our travel ban and the wall we erected to keep us safe would easily have deterred any such visitors. There is no way they could have gotten through. There could be NO visit by any Magi from the East.
Thus, our fact checking concludes that the stories are false – another example of fake news – and that the Messiah has not been born in Bethlehem of Judea. You may go back to your normal lives…”
“You may go back to your normal lives…” I wonder, if for some of us, or many of us, that is exactly the danger of the Christmas story we tell and retell each year. It’s a fanciful tale with cute images of shepherds and stars and swaddling clothes. It makes for a wonderful Kindergarten pageant that is darling and adorable. I/we enjoy our family gatherings, together and the warmth and closeness we share. And, once the day is over, I can get back to my ‘normal life.’
And THAT is the danger. We stay trapped in the romance of the Christmas-Card version of Jesus’ birth. And all that is cute and wonderful and sentimental about the season starts and ends with all that is cute and wonderful and sentimental. There is no challenge to his birth, nothing that calls me beyond my holiday rituals.
And if you doubt that this is a real danger, then let me quote the famous theologian Ricky Bobby from the movie Talledega Nights. You might remember the one scene when Ricky Bobby is leading prayer over Christmas dinner.
Dear Lord baby Jesus, or as our brothers in the south call you, Jesuz, we thank you so much for this bountiful harvest of Dominos, KFC, and the always delicious Taco Bell. I just want to take time to say thank you for my family. My two beautiful, beautiful, handsome striking sons, Walker, and Texas Ranger, or TR as we call him. And of course my red hot smokin’ wife Carley, who is a stone cold fox.
Dear tiny infant Jesus…
His stone cold fox of a wife Carley interrupts: Hey, um… you know sweetie, Jesus did grow up. You don’t always have to call him baby. It’s a bit odd and off puttin’ to pray to a baby.
Ricky replies: Well look, I like the Christmas Jesus best, and I’m sayin grace. When you say grace, you can say it to grown up Jesus, or teenage Jesus, or bearded Jesus, or whoever you want.
I like the Christmas Jesus best.
Perhaps we all do. Yet here is the deepest “fact checking” about the Christmas Jesus. We know that wood of the crib became the wood of the Cross, so that ALL OF US will know the price of our salvation, and all of us will know our worth and our goodness. And because of that, there is no such thing as “our NORMAL lives.” They are all transformed, all changed, all caught up in a story of grace and redemption from which we cannot turn back. And if we want to be a part of all of this beauty <<gesture to crib and trees>> – then we must make sure we don’t miss any of THIS beauty <<gesture to people>> as the place where the incarnation continues.
That is why we are called to do our own ‘gut checking’ about this story and what it calls us to know and to be and to become.
- The birth of Jesus and subsequent visit of the Magi from the East challenges our perceptions about immigration reform and the Dreamers, travel bans and walls.
- The fact that the angels appeared to the shepherds – (think the biker gang/bad boys of society, on the lowest social rung) challenges us to think about how we treat the outcasts and those on the fringes of our world.
- The star shining in the night over the place of his birth invites us to look at the political realities around the walled city of Bethlehem – a modern day West Berlin complete with a thirty foot wall topped with razor wire, as well as the status of the city of Jerusalem so in the news.
- The Virgin birth challenges us to look at how we welcome the pregnant teenager in our midst, and to reform a society where abortion on demand is pretty much the rule of law. …And so it goes. …And so it goes.
It does not take much fact checking to realize how much the birth of Jesus changes everything. And if there is a gift to these days, isn’t that we do slow down, perhaps just enough, to remember that truth. So spend time before the crib, before your tree, here in Church. Step “back” from the gift opening and sharing that happens around your tables and in your homes this evening and day and just ‘Behold.” Behold the beauty that you see there. Let it connect you to the birth of him who changed everything by his coming. And then, make a choice. Make THE CHOICE, to never go back to your “normal life” again.