Christmas

What Would Jesus Say To the NRA?

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A demonstrator from CodePink holds up a banner as the NRA's Wayne LaPierre delivers remarks. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

What does the birth of the baby Jesus 2,000 years ago have to offer the violent, troubled world we live in? Or what would Jesus say to the NRA?

I want to suggest — a lot.  A whole lot.

Jesus entered the world from a posture of absolute vulnerability — as an unarmed, innocent child during a time of tremendous violence. The Bible speaks of a terrible massacre as Jesus was born, an unspeakable act of violence as King Herod slaughters children throughout the land hoping to kill Jesus (which the church remembers annually as the massacre of the Holy Innocents).  

Perhaps the original Christmas was marked more with agony and grief like that in Connecticut than with the glitz and glamour of the shopping malls and Christmas parades. For just as Mary and Joseph celebrated their newborn baby, there were plenty of other moms and dads in utter agony because their kids had just been killed.    

From his birth in the manger as a homeless refugee until his brutal execution on the Roman cross, Jesus was very familiar with violence.  Emmanuel means “God with us.” Jesus’s coming to earth is all about a God who leaves the comfort of heaven to join the suffering on earth. The fact that Christians throughout the world regularly identify with a victim of violence — and a nonviolent, grace-filled, forgiving victim — is perhaps one of the most fundamentally life-altering and world-changing assumptions of the Christian faith. Or it should be. 

So what does that have to do with the NRA? Underneath the rhetoric of the gun-control debate this Christmas is a nagging question: are more guns the solution to our gun problem?  

5 Ways Anyone Can Benefit from a Sober January

champagne cork
Jaromir Urbanek / Shutterstock.com

One of the most famous miracles in the Bible was when Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana. When the wine at the party ran dry, at his mother’s request young Jesus made a lot of wine (and he made the good stuff). From the teetotling temperance movement to the sacramental nature of communion wine, alcohol and faith have an interesting relationship. But after a couple-month celebration of thanks, the birth of Christ, and the arrival of a new year, many observe this month as Sober January.

Americans’ Quest for the Christmas of Their Childhoods: Nostalgia isn’t just a feeling—it’s a commodity.

On an icy Maine pond one December morning, Chester Greenwood, a 15-year-old boy with oversized ears, was freezing. He cut a few strokes on his new skates before the ear-piercing cold became unbearable. Turning back to his grandmother’s farmhouse kitchen, a sudden inspiration blazed against the chill. The boy gathered a few scraps of farm wire, beaver fur, and cloth. In a moment, he fashioned a solution for the long winter cold: earmuffs.

Pope Francis Surprises an Italian Family with a Christmastime Call

Image via REUTERS/Max Rossi/RNS

“Oftentimes we’re in a hurry when we call others. But they felt the pope was truly interested in them,” Gabrieli told the Catholic news site Aleteia, which also reported that the boy is seven. “At that moment, they were at the center of his attention. This is what really struck them. He was asking about them; they felt he really wanted to know how they were doing.”

Weekly Wrap: 12.26.15: The 10 Best Stories You Missed While Christmas-ing

1. 12 Things to Do on the 12 Days of Christmas
Don’t take down that tree just yet. Remember that Christmas is an entire season. Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Stephen — the first Christian martyr. Let these ideas take you all the way through Epiphany.

2. ICYMI: Why Jesus Was, and Is, a Political Threat
“The language of Mary is the narrative of revolution and redistribution, two words that the powers that be just hate. And while the revolution that Christ brings is not violent, it is nonetheless completely transformational. Mary got it.”

3. Las Posadas: Searching for an Inn
Washington Post features the Hispanic Christian tradition of recreating Joseph and Mary’s search for shelter. “Making it real, and making it something that’s close to home, fits in closely with Hispanic/Latino theology.”

Why Jesus Was, and Is, a Political Threat

Christos Georghiou / Shutterstock.com

This is not the talk of charity and giving Christmas toys and turkeys to the less fortunate. The language of Mary is the narrative of revolution and redistribution, two words that the powers that be just hate. And while the revolution that Christ brings is not violent, it is nonetheless completely transformational. Mary got it.

Herod did too. The nearest political ruler to the birth of Christ immediately saw the possible implications for him.

Is the Star of Bethlehem for Real?

Tree lighting ceremony in Bethlehem. Image via REUTERS / Ammar Awad / RNS

The Star of Bethlehem is the name given to an event in the night sky that the Gospel of Matthew says heralded the birth of Jesus. Three wisemen — or magi, or kings — come to King Herod and ask, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

O Come to Church All Ye Faithful, Sort of Faithful, and Atheists, Too

Image via LifeWay Research / RNS

December means curtains up for church Christmas pageants, hand-bell concerts, caroling kiddie choirs, and Nativity displays on the front lawns.

But the No. 1 reason most U.S. adults — Christians and many unbelievers, too — give for going to church at Christmastime is to “honor Jesus,” according to a new survey from the evangelical research agency LifeWay Research.

More than three in four of churchgoers (77 percent), Protestants and Catholics alike, said they were drawn to attend church to honor the birth of their savior, the fundamental religious experience of Christmas above and beyond all the seasonal fa-la-la-la-la.

Encountering God Along the Journey

Holy family
CosVeta / Shutterstock.com

In this season of preparing for Christmas, there is a growing number of unaccompanied children arriving on the U.S. southwestern border. The numbers have been increasing in the last few months, enough to move government offices to prepare for their coming. National security continues to be the most important governmental concern, but even then, laws require that migrant children detained by our government be fed and sheltered until they can be released to a legal sponsor. It leads me to wonder: If governmental offices are preparing to receive these unaccompanied children, then what are we Christians doing to prepare to receive them?

Every Christmas as the story of the birth of Jesus our Lord is read in congregations and in homes there are always the laments about how sad and even cruel it was that there was no place for Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus. Where was the loving and caring welcome for them? We cannot change the most unwelcome reception the Christ Child received at his birth, but we can learn from it.

New Jersey Town Takes Down Menorah Display

Image via Shannon Mullen / Asbury Park Press / RNS

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here. But Hanukkah? Not so much.

In this town of about 90,000 residents, including a large Jewish enclave, a complaint over a menorah set up beside a decorated Christmas tree in Town Square has triggered the menorah’s removal and upset numerous residents and at least one downtown merchant, who says township officials acted rashly.

For decades, Lakewood’s display has featured a Christmas tree and a small menorah. No one has complained until now, township officials say.

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