In a few days a baby named Immanuel will be born in a refugee camp north of the Syrian border, in southern Turkey. Another, named Jesus, will be born in the desert south of the Texas border-crossing in northern Mexico. In the next two weeks babies will be born in every impoverished backwater over all the earth, and some of them will be named after Jesus of the Bible—the “savior of the world” prophesied by the ancients—a man tortured and executed, because he enraged the religious leaders of his time.
Why did the top religious leaders of Jerusalem turn against Jesus and convince their Roman administrators to execute him? Was it because he told them they didn’t know what they were doing; that they didn’t know what they were talking about? Two thousand years ago people living in the Roman territories of the Middle East didn’t challenge authorities, at least not to their faces. Brazen confrontation was something these leaders weren’t used to and didn’t like.
Jesus claimed that—despite their impressive learning and years of study and prayer—some scholars knew less than they thought about Scripture and what it meant. They knew almost nothing about the nature of God and His plans for humankind. A few acted like instruments of Satan, he said. They lorded their power over the common people and demanded respect, even as they supplicated themselves before their Roman rulers.
Anyway, one place where babies named Jesus won’t be born on Christmas day 2015 will likely be the Trump Towers. Folks who frequent locations like these have access to private rooms in the best hospitals. Some might choose to birth their children at home, yes, but their homes are palaces and luxury-suites—many with twenty-four hour on-site medical services, including doctors and nurses.
The homes and suites of billionaires can be busy places, I imagine, but they never smell like refugee camps. And it’s unusual inside the USA for billionaires to name their children after Jesus of the Bible.
I’m not going to sugar-coat this essay. The United States has a sordid history of doing bad things to good people. It has a record of murdering its best people: prophets, like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, for example. It has a record of “bombing the s*** “ out of people (a.k.a. Donald Trump)—as the history of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh Trail, and the bloody highway of death out of Kuwait will remind us. By remote control we have, in our most recent period, unleashed Hellfire missiles on seven-hundred occasions; sometimes on innocents—people with whom we are not at war—which have cooked by-standers alive with their ungodly heat.
Some “religious leaders”—if anyone can say those words with a straight face—enrich themselves with lucrative book deals. Some write crap to capitalize on the fears of common people who don’t have the sense to know they are being played. Some fill their mega-churches with armed goons to protect their lucrative fiefdoms and the absurd sums of tax-free money they scam from congregants every single week. Please note: I said, some.
Why go on? We know it’s true. Some who claim to be Christians have become almost useless to the building of a kingdom of Heaven on the earth. Do Christians live in America? Of course. Tens of thousands do; maybe hundreds of thousands. But not millions. No way. Not by the way we behave; not by the way we display our culture and values to the angels of the world who watch our every move; or to God who knows our hearts.
Did anyone watch the GOP debate last night? Did anyone watch that pantheon of the gods (as CNN visually-hyped it in their relentless and—can we admit?—ludicrous lead-up advertising) who fought each other tooth and nail to prove to the American people which of them would be the most heartless leader of them all? It’s not insanity, people. It’s evil. What does our country need, some sort of exorcism?
Because it seems to me as if our nation behaves at times like it’s possessed.
If you were Jesus, would you permit your name to appear on Christmas cards in a mega-store that treats Christmas as just another opportunity to make a lot of money? I don’t know if anyone would. During my Christmas shopping yesterday, I couldn’t find a single card with Jesus’ name on it. It kind of surprised me.
Fortunately for us, God’s ways are not our ways, the Bible says. God is love. He has made a simple request, really: that we love all other people, including our enemies, as we love ourselves.
It’s a hard truth—that Jesus expects us to love unlovable people. I admit, I’m not good at it. No one is. But it’s something we can do to make a better world.
The Holy Spirit of Christ Jesus will help us to love others, Scripture promises. Together we can love others, especially at Christmas time, when we try. I believe it’s really true.