Once again, we are about to have a birthday party for a person named Jesus. As we approach the date, December 25, the same thoughts return to haunt me, thoughts that have played across my mind for years.
Babies are sweet and inoffensive. If we can just keep Jesus in a crib, which we do, there will be no problem. But if we celebrate the birthday of a man, there is a real problem, a problem that has to do with honesty, with truthfulness. If Jesus the man, who became a “great offense” (Mark 6) gave a birthday party in Palm Springs, or any other city in America, the simple truth is that not one of us would go. Jesus would be left alone.
The clergy would certainly not attend the party for this wild, harsh and brazen man, with his scathing words for them: “The tax collectors and the prostitutes will go into the Kingdom of Heaven before you.” (Matthew: 21)
He would cut through the legalistic Christian doctrines of today, saying once again “in vain do you worship me, teaching as doctrines the traditions and rules of men, you have a fine way of rejecting God in order to keep your traditions.” (Mark 7) The clergy wuld not be at the party.
The hawks and the military mentalities would not be there. They would call him a cowardly dove and pacifist, because he said to them “resist not evil.” What a fool, our hawks say, “has he never heard of that ‘evil empire?’” But Jesus continues: “turn the other cheek… He who lives by the sword will die by the sword… and love your enemies.”
The business people, stockbrokers and Wall Street yuppies already would have scratched him off as a real nut for saying, “take no thought for tomorrow, what you shall eat or drink, or what you shall wear.” My gawd, whats with this nut? Thinking about what to eat and drink and what to wear is what keeps Christmas going.
Home lovers and counselors would not attend the party. Ask them why and they would say: “Did you hear what that screwball said to us?” He said “If anyone does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters he cannot be my disciple.” Hate, he said… hate his family. Can you believe this fanatic? (Luke 14)
The Womens Christian Temperance Union would not come to the party, because Jesus would be serving real, genuine, honest- to-God wine. He never heard of grape juice.
The thin-lipped pious and squint-eyed moralists would not come close to this man who was called “a drunkard, a glutton and a friend of sinners.” (Luke 7) who showed love for a prostitute, Mary Magdalene, and tender affection for an adultress, as well as a woman who had lived with five husbands, and was now living with a man not her husband.
The wealthy would not attend the party of a man who told them: “It will be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19)
There will be a birthday party on December 25.
Who would be there?
It is Christmas Eve now in churches all across this land. Jesus begins to talk as he did before. The ushers are becoming nervous; they can’t believe what they are hearing. The faces of the clergy are flushed.
What to do? Why is this man ruining our sweet, perfumed worship service of fantasy? The choirs are getting up now to leave, they have had enough. The congregations begin to murmur. “This man must be insane. Why doesn’t he just shut up so we can go back to singing our sweet carols?”
But the voice continues as Christians pour out of the sanctuary, disgusted, headed for home. And the voice continues.
The Roman Catholic cathedral is now empty. The candles are out in the empty Protestant churches. The Christian churches all are dark.
The only sound is snow, softly falling outside, and inside… Jesus is left alone… with God.