We go to great lengths these days to avoid any hint of religious bigotry, especially when it comes to Christmas. Long gone are the days of nativity scenes found in America’s city halls. Expressions such as “Happy holidays!” and “Seasons greetings!” now dominate the marketing world. Public schools call Christmas vacation “Winter recess.” We don’t want to upset anyone, after all.
I can appreciate the spirit behind that. Christmas is offensive. It’s not the wise men or the shepherds or the angels or even the baby Jesus per se that is offensive.
It’s not the wise men or the shepherds or the angels or even the baby Jesus per se that is offensive.
It is the idea behind Christmas – the “why.”
Joseph was instructed to give the name “Jesus” to the baby who would be born to Mary for, “he will save his people from their sins” (Mt. 1:21). Did you get that? Jesus would save his people from their sins, their wrongdoing, their misconduct.
For an oppressed people like the Jews of Jesus’ day, there was little room in their minds to tolerate anyone talking about their sins and their need for salvation from those sins. The centuries predating Christ’s incarnation were deeply anti-Semitic. The Jewish people had endured long years of cruelty, discrimination, and indignity at the hands of the Romans, Greeks, and Persians, to name a few. They were longing for salvation all right – salvation from the sins of their enemies – not their own.
Imagine, for a moment, a woman entangled in a dangerously abusive marriage. She enters counseling and the therapist, rather than focusing on her husband’s misdeeds, draws attention to her own. Or take a black man who is subjected to KKK-like racism in his neighborhood and the police, rather than addressing the horrible atrocities committed against him, focus on his personal faults.
This was precisely the emphasis of Jesus. “You may be the object of oppression and injustice. Others may be violating some of your most basic rights. But I don’t want to talk about that. I don’t want to talk about them. I want to talk about you and your wrongdoings.”
This is why Jesus was so disliked – and eventually wound up on a cross. Jesus insisted on saying difficult and disturbing things to people. He talked about their faults and their evil—not others’.
Christmas is offensive. It reminds us of our true condition: We are the ones at fault. We are the ones who have fallen short. We are the ones who have rebelled against our Creator’s laws and have scorned his name, acting in great malice, ingratitude and self-interest. We are the ones who have given offense. We are the ones to blame and have no excuse.
So humble yourself, embrace the offense and receive His great salvation! “He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, But he on whom it falls will be crushed.” (Matthew 21:44)