America’s crowning holiday is upon us. Our nation’s character is mirrored in this fusion of God and Santa, manger and mall. Cultural authorities remind us of the reason for the season. Symbols of Christ’s lowly birth add feelings of pious humility to the flashy mash up of religion and commerce. Many of us nod knowingly, even if we don’t know much at all.
Who was this Godly human being? Jesus was a revolutionary. He turned man’s power structure upside down, taught people to put God first, love others as ourselves, and care for the least among us. He exposed our blood-lust through his death — showed us how the state, clergy, and mob collude to sanctify violence. And he forgave us, even as we tortured and murdered him.
That kind of compassion is cosmic. It comes from a place we barely fathom, yet we feel it when we face our transgressions and repent with humble hearts. Alas, for many believers, this experience has been replaced by frozen social rituals that are no substitute for conscience.
Does it matter whether we say “Merry Christmas” or play traditional holiday carols in our places of business? Not if we value profits above everything. Not if we support leaders who seek to remove the public safety net that is essential for folks in need. Not if we sacrifice creation for personal gain, and crucify anyone who stands in the way.
That’s where Jesus stood. So will we, if we follow him.