By Pastor Chris Brown

Bethania Lutheran Church

The Advent and Christmas season still spark joy for me. If I were to use Marie Kondo’s pedagogical approach to decluttering the holidays throughout the year, Christmas would definitely be something I’m keeping.

The changing of the weather, the Christmas lights glistening at night, the radio stations that turn to favorite Christmas songs for the month, and the festive ways people come together to share this holiday with one another, bring warmth to my heart. 

Pastor Chris Brown
File photo

I get to add another activity that warms my heart this year. The other day before bath time, my 2-year old randomly started singing in the sweetest toddler voice, “Jesus is the reason for the Christmas season…” in preparation for her first preschool Christmas program (enter meme of me as a puddle of tears on the floor). 

After recovering from my heartwarming overload, I reflected on those words, “Jesus is the reason for the Christmas season.” I’m a Christian pastor and I believe those words, and they bear deep meaning for me during this time. But what do they mean? People will probably give different answers. 

For me, the answer to that question of meaning lies in the details of the story of Jesus’ birth. The story is told every season in varying forms, through songs, pageants, displays, movies, and Charles Schulz. However, in many of those stories, the details seem to be forgotten. It is told that Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a manger by a mother who was a virgin (the Greek means righteous), but that seems to be all the details that are remembered. 

It is forgotten that while it’s said she’s a virgin, she’s also an unwed, engaged, pregnant woman, an immense scandal of that time. It’s forgotten that she belongs to the Jewish faith, a persecuted group of people living under Roman occupation. It is forgotten that Jesus was born in Bethlehem because his mother and father were traveling for a mandated census, a vehicle of exploitation of all empires. It is forgotten that Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were all from Palestine, meaning their skin was brown and their hair was dark. It is forgotten that shortly after his birth his life was in danger and he and his family sought refuge in a foreign country. And it is forgotten how important each of these details was for the communities telling this story in the first century.

As we immerse ourselves in our own holiday traditions this year, may they be joyous and filled with love. Whatever stories you share, for whatever reasons you gather, I pray they lead you to more wholeness, connection and compassion. And if Jesus is the reason for the Christmas season for you, I hope you remember all the details of the story.

For those of us in the Christian tradition, may we remember the story of God incarnate in humanity is the story of God who is connected to the least of these, the suffering, the marginalized, the misunderstood, the “scandalized,” the castigated, the oppressed, the beaten up and broken, and those seeking refuge.

Let us remember that the Christmas story, at its heart, is about God coming into this world through the powerless, not the powerful, and that penultimate detail might be the most important part of the story we share each year.

May we enjoy this holiday and spend it in love. And while we’re enveloped in the comfort and joy of this season may we also remember those among us and those in our world for whom the details of this story entail a profound connection.

May we see God in the festivities and magic of Christmas traditions and may we see God in each other and those around us, especially the vulnerable and the marginalized. And may we always remember the details of this story, because it is through these details that God chose to speak and continues to speak today. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.