Christmas 2016

In the early 90s a survey was done among homeless persons. It showed that 2% of them blamed the government and their last employer for their plight; another 2% blamed their families; and fully 70% blamed only themselves.

My guess is that among that largest group we’d find mostly good persons who were down on their luck and were hoping for the chance to get back on their feet and become self-supporting. Given such a chance, they’d be the type that would not only thank those who offered assistance when they desperately needed it, but also assist others in the condition they were once in.

If we move away from the fluffy corruption that has come to characterize Christmas in the Western world, we can see that the phenomenon of today’s homeless is almost identical to the scenario around the birth of Jesus 2000 years ago. The human race was, in more than one way, homeless and the fault was its own. It needed to have done for it what it could not do by itself.

There was a people, Israel by name, full of life and love, full of sin and unfaithfulness, but a lusty, life-loving people who somehow had come to know the one and only God from their vantage point in their world of pagans. They knew well that they needed help and were not ashamed to admit it. They asked for it, for centuries, and remained confident it would come in the person of Messiah.

Like ourselves, they were trying to make sense of life. A popular song would ask, two millennia later, “What’s it all about, Alfie”? And another song would lament at the discouraging thought of what may happen after death, “Is that all there is?” How could it be true, they must have wondered, that death means we are annihilated, when we have this universal passion to live, to live happily and well, to live forever without fear of extinction? Yet, who could with any authority or certainty say otherwise?

And then he appeared, flooding the darkness of hopeless lives and confirming their wildest aspirations. “Good News” it was immediately called! The homeless who accepted it were driven by sheer, bubbling-over joy to ask others if they too had heard the news. “You haven’t? Then listen to me and I will tell you about Jesus of Nazareth, what he taught, how he lived and died and came back to life, is with us now and will be forever!”

Their enthusiasm to share him and his message with all other people naturally gave rise to a series of miracle stories, like the wondrous star that led mythical truth-seekers to the place of his birth, and many others during the years of his ministry. We treasure those stories today and always will. They are among the colorful ornaments that decorate our celebration.

I presume that late last night the Christmas buying and selling frenzy stopped for a while. The stores closed and their lights went out, and a certain stillness came over those who believe in Jesus as the love of God made visible, tangible, audible — the light of God showing us how to be happy as we journey together through life, to life.

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