Christ: the Answer for Conflict
For many in Newton, Connecticut, the idea of celebrating Christmas ideals of cheer, joy, and peace seem inhumane this December 25th. Smiling and happiness in the face of massacre, pain, and mourning… doesn’t seem right. In fact, celebrating amidst such darkness almost brings on a feeling of shame. To do anything other than to grieve almost seems to heartlessly make like of the situation.
To turn a blind eye to such atrocity would certainly be wrong. It would certainly be unloving. And it would certainly be, dare I say, “unchristian.”
But perhaps the problem with thinking about celebrating Christmas isn’t that Christmas isn’t appropriate in such a season. Perhaps the problem would be to let superficialities that plague the health of every soul, every holiday season. Perhaps its the hallow feelings that we try to summon and create which themselves actually becomes a barrier to our ability to truly love. And perhaps our we become so occupied in planning and displaying holiday festivities, that these tasks distract us from the testifying we really need to engage in at Christmas time. Christmas needs less cultural backage, and more CHRIST.
And when darkness is at its thickest, its more Jesus and more Gospel, it’s more Christmas that every victim, and every culprit, really needs.
In Colossians 2:6-23, in the scope of Paul’s rhetorical argument, we see Paul encourage his audience towards this very goal- to continu in Christ as their only sufficient need. Paul encourages his audience to remain and continue in Jesus, rather than to adapt and drift into the empty practices of other philosophies and influences. 2:6-23, a passage that has attracted volumes of books seeking to define what the “Colossian Heresy” is that Paul is pointing out, is actually not focused on rebuking the church for any theological failures. Instead, he is leveraging a weighty and high Christology to affirm to them that their identity is eternally fixed with Jesus. Paul depicts this most centrally by the pictures of circumcision and baptism.
In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Col 2:11-12 ESV)
Continuing on, Paul explains how it is our baptism with Jesus that allows us live as you new selves, which is having both behavior and knowledge renewed to be like the Father (3:9-11). Thus, the picture of baptism and union with Jesus’ saving work is what gives us new birth. And, just as we participate in a eternal life of rebirth Jesus established in the Resurrection, so he also became like is in a birth by water and by womb.
So, bringing Colossian Christological reflections to the Christmas season, I think we find the real hope that tragedy is looking for, exactly what putting away lights and decorations our of guilt (a guilt that is perhaps a conscious conviction that an idol has really taken the place of what should be the center of Christmas), is not.
In this weekend before Christmas, I leave this sort of prose-hymn for reflection:
“As a birth in Bethlehem became the means to beget the one who would bring life by death,
so by baptism do we participate in Jesus’ victory.
Bodies, once maligned by sin, and misguided by “mistress-ing” temptations to find victory over the flesh,
become new by rebirth that comes by our baptism and union with Jesus.
Thus, we find ourselves new creations, remembering our new-births while meditating on the babe that brought us such beauty, that made us…
This tragic holiday needs not a holiday. It needs Christ-más. More Christ. More Jesus.