Thursday, December 15, 2016

Reflection: Birth of Christ without the crucifixion is not Christmas

By Vernieda I. Britton
"Christ Crucified between the Two Thieves: The Three Crosses" by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn, 1653, Etching and burin on display at the Vatican Museum
A baby is a special gift from God, a pure heart full of unconditional love. If you don't believe me, just take a look into the eyes of a baby, and feel God's pure love. The Christmas story shows us the importance of each new baby that is born. Most of us know the Christmas story, as well as the Easter story. These are stories that live in most of our hearts throughout our lives. Have you ever wondered how the Gospels show each of us how to love unconditionally?

Of course, the Christ story is about a virgin birth, but for me, that does not take away the love Jesus was given by his parents and family. By the time Jesus was twelve, he was out doing God's work of sharing unconditional love. Imagine how different our world would be this Christmas if every twelve-year-old were taught to remember, and act upon that memory by sharing their God gift of unconditional love with all God's creation, and especially those who are not like themselves.

We also know that as Jesus grew older that he was tempted in the wilderness; and was mistrusted by his community; hated in his village and ultimately betrayed by one his closest friends. Jesus's story could be a present day story except for one thing Jesus trusted, loved and had faith in his Father throughout. Jesus never wavered. Yes, he may have questioned God's plan, but he continued on his journey regardless.

When Jesus surrendered his will to God, he received the power of miracles which allowed Jesus to heal and save many along his life journey. Have you ever wondered what God's plans are for you?  Why don't you surrender to the will of God and find out? Many of us have announced our surrendered before, but when it got tough, we retreated from that surrender. When we retreat from the surrender, who do we have to blame from how things turn out?

Despite all of Jesus's miracles and goodness, he was still despised. Jesus was ridiculed but never struck back, and he still marched on to his crucifixion. With trust and faith, Jesus stood strong, and he even forgave his persecutors. He demonstrated that God's plan was never about man's earthly material way of life. Jesus taught that our highest priority should be to love unconditionally. He taught us to step away from one's family to face temptation and to be hated for living free of material wants. This is the Christmas story.

Maybe this Christmas some of us will remember to unwrap God's gift of unconditional love. Maybe some of us will crucify our worldly goals and remember God's gift from birth. If so, then we will be offered the embrace of the Holy Spirit that was promised after the crucifixion of Jesus. When we give up our embrace of the material greed that creates division everywhere, we begin to eliminate injustice, violence, and war.

Together the Christmas story and Easter story teach us our earthly purpose. It's one story with multiple chapters. The son of God's journey began with birth to start our learning and ended with the ultimate sacrifice to trigger our action. It is the precious example of "unconditional love." In words from Galatians 2:20: "I have been crucified with Christ, I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." This Christmas, don't close the book after the first chapter. Continue the story, celebrate the birth by crucifying self, and begin sharing God's unconditional love all year long.