Nazareth, the biblical city where the Angel Gabriel came to Mary to announce that she would bear the Savior of the world and where the Holy Family settled after after coming back from Egypt with their infant Jesus, canceled the traditional Christmas celebration in protest against President Trump’s declaration that the United States would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Many may know that Jesus was called the Nazarene because Nazareth is where he was raised and practiced the fundamentals of his ministry.
Aside from the “Humbugs” around Christmas that this boycott represents, the holiday is also colored by more than usual differences of opinion relative to what to call it in the face of so much energy spent on not offending other celebrations such as the Jewish Hanuka that forms part of the season. This type of political correctness has become a pet peeve of many devout Christians, especially Evangelicals that believe in the strict definition of biblical scripture.
Part of the Populist Movement led by Evangelicals is doing everything possible to redefine America’s identity as a Protestant Christian nation. It is almost as if they want to become the State church much like early Christianity that was recognized by Roman Emperor Constantine as the official religion of the Empire.
The desire to become part of the government structure was a temptation recognized by the Founding Fathers when they wrote the Constitution. In the document, freedom of religion is accompanied by a definitive separation of church and state.
That has not deterred Christian organizations, pastors, TV evangelists, lobbyists and other devout members of sects from acting to acquire special status and benefits from the State. It does not matter that Christ himself preached against this during his ministry.
When Jesus was asked about the relationship of religion to the state, he responded by saying, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s” (Mathew 22:21 and Mark 12:17). But from early times, Christians have chosen to ignore Christ’s lesson on this relationship with political power.
Worse, there are Christians today that in their zeal to be part of the State have taken to supporting politicians that model the very obscenities their religion condemns. They sell their souls for the power the dark side can afford them.
Like Nazareth, Bethlehem is located on the Palestinian Arab West Bank and is important to the life of Jesus because it is where he was born. Also, it was in God’s plan for his son to be born in the most humble of circumstances.
Aside from his parents and the animals that belonged there, Jesus was surrounded by poor people directed to that place by angels celebrating his coming. The three Kings that came from afar to visited later confirmed the fact that Christianity was to be a world-wide phenomenon.
Christmas is a lesson in love and a reminder that we are held together in the space and time of human existence. It is also a reminder that our cultural circumstance must make room for the religions of most others because they too are the children of God.
As our families gather this year for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, let us take time to pray and think about ways to heal our broken relationships. The coming of Jesus represents renewal as in a new beginning.
Let that renewal lead to a more enlightened community. Above all, let the birth of Christ again mean that God is love.