We humans don’t do well with pain and discomfort…hence many of our God questions.  After all, our greatest questions center around the issues of pain, evil, and suffering.  But when read without all the decorations, soft music, and tinsel, these are the things that define the Christmas story.  Come Christmas Eve, many of us will go to church. With lights turned low, flickering candles, and a twinkling Christmas tree, we will bathe ourselves in the warm glow of Christmas Carols and familiar Scriptures.  Christmas has become our ultimate feel-good holiday as it’s all about love and acceptance and sharing and giving and presents and feasts and family and decorations and wreaths.  Which leads me to ask why we are so afraid to face the difficulties in life?  Why do we pretend that all is wonderful when it really isn’t?  I mean, how often do we really read the Bible to understand it truly?  The Christmas story?  How often do we notice the suffering that is basic to these narratives?  The murder?  The genocide.  Being in an occupied country?  The need to flee?   The trauma of being a refugee?  The racism?

Jesus was born into a society that, like ours, values wealth and power.   If we read these narratives carefully, they remind us that we rarely get the answers we want, nor as soon as we want… which raises a whole set of new questions.  Why do we hold the Bible in such high regard when we make such an effort to ignore its message? Just look at the ways we have used Scripture to hurt, malign, demean, fight, conquer, exclude, and punish others.  To excuse our raping the earth, paying low wages,  committing genocide, and demeaning immigrants for our selfish purposes.   What, if any, proof do we have that God exists other than the longing of our hearts?  

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When I was younger, I wanted things defined and clear, but now I am comfortable sitting with uncertainty.  I have given up trying to save the world, recognizing that I have my hands full dealing with myself and my uglier impulses.  I have come to treasure that longing for God as something that lives in each of us. There was a time when changing myself didn’t seem to be a sufficient answer, but the longer I lived, the more hope and promise I sensed in that basic principle of the 12-step program and the Bible.  After all, why else do we need to be saved, converted, repent, transformed, recover?  If we are to believe the Christmas narratives, we must also believe that change occurs one person at a time.  Instead of sending an army of angels to whip us all into shape, God sent one person, a baby, to show us the way.  And for this, I am profoundly grateful.

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