And in his name, all oppression shall cease.
Driving home from the Bengals’ game with my son this weekend I saw a billboard that has bothered me ever since. It was big, red and Christmassy. And it featured a weepy looking white guy with long hair and an old-timey robe. The caption read, “I miss hearing you say ‘Merry Christmas’ – Jesus.”
At the risk of offending those who are deeply galled at hearing “Happy Holidays” from the cashier at Tim Hortons, I’m just going to say it: the so-called “War on Christmas” is pretty low on Jesus’ list of battle priorities.
Jesus didn’t come to establish a holiday, secular or otherwise. And whether the sign over the display at Target says “Happy Holidays,” “Seasons Greetings” or “Merry Christmas,” the real war on Christ’s coming and his agenda has precious little to do with the tinsel, the toys and the trappings of the holiday we’ve created.
In his own words, Jesus came “to proclaim good news to the poor…to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” He came to “destroy the works of the devil” and to “serve, not to be served.” When we turn Jesus into a poster child -- quite literally, in the case of the previously noted billboard -- for our political or social agendas, we risk doing damage to his agenda.
Have we ever considered that maybe Jesus hates Christmas – or what it has become to most of us – more than the “secularists” do? Listen to what God said to the prophet Isaiah regarding the festivals and holidays of His people, Israel:
Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood! Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.
So what’s the point? Should we as Christians stop celebrating Christmas? No. But we should make sure that we don’t anger God and cause him to “hate with all [his] being” our holiday festivities.
Let’s stop moaning about how victimized we feel when someone doesn’t affirm our agenda, and let’s redouble our commitment to the victims at the center of Jesus’ agenda: the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, the unloved, those enslaved by their own sins or those of others. Anything less is “detestable” to God, a “worthless assembly,” a burden to God himself.
And as we sing these words, let them ring out as our manifesto, our battle cry against everything which truly wars against the agenda of Christ’s coming:
Truly he taught us to love one another, his law is love and his gospel is peace. Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother, and in his name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we. With all our hearts we praise his holy name. Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we, his power and glory evermore proclaimed.
Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.
And by all means, have a merry Christmas.