The Christmas story is the story of reconciliation. It is the story of a God who is broken-hearted that mankind has forgotten how to live in peace – with him and with each other. So, he chose to join us in our humanity to demonstrate for us the path to peaceful existence. He met us where we are in order to reconcile us back to himself.
You don’t have to believe the Christmas story is literally true to understand its message of reconciliation. The path described in this story is one that we can all follow. Meet people where they are, walk with them, exhibit both grace and truth in all your interactions, and let that be enough. Let that be the bridge that attracts others to meet you on common ground. And when we are on common ground, then we have the opportunity to expand that territory.
Trust me when I say that I am still growing in this area (but I am growing!). In recent years, it hit me like a bolt of lightning that I needed to stop expecting people who didn’t believe what I believed, to act like I act, or think like I think, or say what I say. Unrealistic expectations placed on others is the birthplace of contention. Releasing those expectations allows me to take the posture of seeking to understand. And that, I find, is compellingly attractive.
Indulge me for a moment as I address those who do profess to believe what I believe (but everyone is welcome to read as I hope it will be encouraging to you). Those of you who identify as followers of Jesus Christ, please hear. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). And I am afraid that many of us are botching it. Many of us are too quick to anger, or what appears to be anger. Many of us are too quick to point out sin in the lives of people who do not believe (like we do) that it is sin. Many of us are too quick to proclaim our rights for choice in some areas, while lambasting others for proclaiming their rights for choice in other areas. Stop. To my knowledge, no one has ever been bullied into a right relationship with God. Yes, we are called to point out sin to “one another” – in an iron sharpening iron spirit – and we should hold each other accountable. But our ministry is one of reconciliation, and to let God work on hearts and beliefs and, ultimately, actions.
So, again to everyone, be the Christmas story. Live in peace with your fellow humans. Consider the truth in another story told by the one that God sent in his gesture of reconciliation, that of the Good Samaritan:
Love your neighbor. Who is your neighbor? The story makes it clear that everyone is your neighbor, but most especially those that society would tell you to despise. So, love (i.e., live in peace with) those that look, think, talk and act differently than you. That’s our common ground. That is the path to reconciliation. And that is what God intended when the Christmas story was birthed.
Celebrate the holiday well, however you celebrate. Peace be with you.