As I decorate my house with Christmas things, listen to and sing Christmas carols, and especially as a look at different nativity scene displays, I am filled with a lot of mixed feelings. Especially this year, I am filled with a lot of sadness.
Christmas is supposed to be filled with joy and spending time with our loved ones, yet things that are happening around the world makes it difficult to forget about the troubles and to just enjoy the season. So, I divided this year’s Christmas message into two parts.
Part One: Celebrate!
First part, we should celebrate! There are a lot to celebrate. We live in a blessed country with a lot of privileges that we enjoy for which we should be thankful and joyful. God’s Chosen One who would lead us to God and God’s way of living was not born among the rich and powerful. He came as one of us, in fact, one of the lowliest of us. Through this, God is making a statement that God’s kingdom especially welcomes those who are marginalized, considered not worthy or important. The magi, who are foreigners, and the lowly shepherds who had to work even at night were the ones invited to the celebration of the Holy Birth.
This baby would grow up to teach about God for whom “the first shall be last and the last shall be first” and “those who do not become like a little child cannot enter the kingdom of God.” He touched the lepers, which he wasn’t supposed to do as a Jew, showing them God’s love and mercy that does not discriminate. He fed and healed people on sabbath, which, also, he wasn’t supposed to do as a Jew, showing that people are so much more important than the Law. Unless you belong to the ruling class and not belong to any minority groups, this is indeed good news!
God is empowering us! All this is good news for Christians. And even if you don’t believe that Jesus was God incarnate or savior, Christmas is a blessing to us, at least in this culture. I do not condone spending several hundred dollars or more buying gifts for relatives and friends, but we can all appreciate the people in our lives. We should be joyful and thankful. Our relationship with God through Jesus, our relationship with the people in our lives are worthy of celebrating.
Part Two: Pain of the World
However, as we are thankful and joyful, celebrating our many blessings, there is a second part for the season. In Jesus’ homeland, Christmas is cancelled from bombing, killing, fear, and grief. There are other parts of the world that are war zones, suffer from hunger, diseases, lack of clean water, laws and customs that marginalize certain groups of people. In my home country, LGBTQIA+ community and allies are sad and angry because the Korean Methodist Church ruled to excommunicate Rev. Lee for offering blessing at the queer cultural festival. This has hurt me deeply because I come from a Methodist background and love being a Methodist. Now, when I go back to Korea to visit my family, I cannot go to a Methodist church.
That is not all. The climate change is causing a lot of scary natural phenomena, which is already causing us suffering. But this planet we are passing onto our children and grandchildren could only get worse and worse if we don’t act. Also, even in this privileged country of ours, there is the darkness of racism, sexism, ableism, classism, and bigotry against our queer siblings.
We are celebrating the birth of God incarnate in the midst of these problems. As we celebrate our blessings and joy, we must look outside our personal circles to see the pain of our world. Jesus came to declare God’s love based on compassion and justice. If our love has conditions, this love doesn’t belong to God. “I love all God’s people, unless they are gay, black, or Muslim,” for example. This attitude does not belong to God.
As we enjoy this season and celebrate with our loved ones, let us never forget our siblings around the world and in our local community who are marginalized and suffering. Let us not forget to become the embodiment of God’s unconditional and indiscriminatory love.
Let us feed, heal, comfort, empower, and love with the love of God based on compassion and justice. And more than anything, remember that you are loved, no matter where you are from and whom you love. You are loved. Jesus came to teach us this message. Don’t let anyone deny you this love of God or treat anyone as if they are not loved by God. We are loved by God. This is good news. Merry Christmas!