The Point of Christmas

Christmas

I never understand more than at Christmas why people become atheists. Often I can understand it and empathize with the feelings and questions that led people there, but at Christmastime, I feel it so much more. It just makes sense.

Jesus was born, and where did that get the people of his village, which probably included some of his relatives? A small genocide. You won’t see that on any Christmas cards. O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie.

Advent is supposed to be a time of waiting. Of sitting in the darkness, the people waiting to see a great light. Everyone is waiting for hope to arrive, waiting for rescue. How long, O Lord, how long?

It’s been 2,000 years and the world is no different today than it was when Jesus was born; arguably the times it has been especially bad has been because of things done in his name.

What was the point? Why bother being born? What good has it really done the world?

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I was listening to Christian radio the other day, because they actually play decent Christmas music. During a break the DJ was going on about prayer and how if you need your life to be on a new trajectory, just pray and boom, God will put your life on a new path. I’m not sure when the story of God and Aladdin’s genie got switched, but can someone get me an oil lamp? I don’t know why people assume God is just out there waiting to just reach down and arrange us like we’re little chess pieces. If he’s doing that, he’s a spectacularly bad chess player. He obviously seems very opposed to magically intervening in tragic world affairs, which is too bad, because there are so many people who could use a magic genie.  

Jesus is the reason for the season, they say, but those who say that just gave into their basest fears and elected a dangerous treasonous narcissist to lead our country. So why exactly do they follow a God who constantly tells them to not fear? What is the point?

I look out at the world and on the whole I see nothing fundamentally different because of Christmas. Because of Jesus.

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One of our traditions has always been to do a Jesse tree. Years ago I made ornaments, and each day in December, we hang one and read the verses. I pulled it out this year and looked at it, and announced we weren’t doing it. We will do something different this year and next year I’ll make a new one. When I looked at it, I read through the verses, and I just couldn’t do it anymore. The premise of the Jesse tree is to show the story of Jesus through the Bible, but it is predicated on people being terrible sinners, and that Jesus was born so that he could die for our sins, and I just don’t believe that anymore. Jesus dying for people’s sins has done nothing to make the world a better place. I don’t believe he was born so that he could die. I believe Jesus was born to show us how to live.

Sin didn’t magically disappear because Jesus was born, died, or rose again. What if Jesus didn’t come to deliver us from SIN, but to deliver us from how we treat each other? What if he came to show us how to love the marginalized, how to welcome the stranger, and what it means to be free? What if he came to show us how to resist an empire, how to love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with God?

And maybe the point of Christmas isn’t even why he came, but simply that he came. Christmas reminds us that we are not alone. He came to be with us in the midst of our pain, our grief, our utter helplessness, our paralyzing fears.

My absolute favorite Christmas carol is O Come O Come Emmanuel. I love the tension between the words Emmanuel and Israel. One means ‘God with us’, and the other, ‘wrestles with God’.

Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel.

I love the tension in this song because it’s at Christmas when I mostly don’t believe, and yet at the same time I become the most faithful.

As I sit this year, terrified of the future, I take comfort in the fact that even if we aren’t delivered from it, we are not alone.

As one of my favorite Christmas poems says,

We cannot wait till the world is sane

to raise our songs with joyful voice,

for to share our grief, to touch our pain,

He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

Caris Adel

Caris Adel

Writer at Caris Adel
Caris is passionate about justice, history, and how they intertwine (or so often don't, as the case may be). She is pursuing a degree in American Studies and Public History, and while she can often be found with a book in her face and a coffee in hand, she also spends some of her time homeschooling her 5 kids.
Caris Adel
  • It’s difficult, isn’t it? To align the evil we see with a good and loving God? We studied Rahab last Sunday. A prostitute. One who sold her body to men. We talked about how she possibly got there, what she dealt with — shame, fear, despair, gossip, rejection, possibly abuse and more. But the mercy of God. She above all people understood that when God was God of heaven and earth and opened her door and her heart to the very enemies of her people. Her past did not prevent a future with God. That’s good news for me, b/c I have a past for sure. Her hope? The scarlet thread and God’s mercy. History shows that the wall around Jericho fell, though a small portion remained and many archeologists believe this could have been the portion of the wall with Rahab’s house.

    Yes, Jesus was born to live — to walk in perfect obedience and fulfill the righteous requirement of the law. But also to die. Right in the midst of evil humanity, God came down to do for us what we could never do for ourselves. There’s the beauty and the gift and the love. <3 <3 <3

  • Jamie

    I love your honesty. And I love your interpretation of Jesus’ life: that he came not to die for us but to show us how to live. Yes. Amen to that. And… if only.

  • This Advent, I’ve been sitting with Meister Eckhart’s question: “What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to the son of God fourteen hundred years ago, and I do not also give birth to the son of God in my time and in my culture?” Your post reminded me of that question. Thanks for your honesty. You are not alone.

  • “Jesus died to show us how to live.” That is the reason… Thanks for this needed reminder.

  • so. good.

  • charlesburchfield

    Yes! He busted up my patterns and set the captive free!!