The Risks of Christmas

Whether we realize it or not, Christmas has always been risky. You wouldn’t necessarily know that from the parts of the story we typically focus on this time of year. When we are reading from Matthew’s gospel, we want to stop around 2:11 with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It feels better to end on a high note, stop before children reading during the Christmas program get to murderous death threats of a desperate despot.

We focus on the grandeur of the guests from a far away land arriving to bring gifts to Jesus. We don’t often focus on Jesus and his family becoming refugees to a far away land in Egypt (a great little allusion to Jesus being a new Moses).

One of our Christmas songs is so uncomfortable with the idea of Jesus being fully human, we sing of Jesus as the one baby in history that never cries. But not only did Jesus cry at some point (he was a baby, after all), after Herod gives an order for the mass murder of all boys under 2 in the region near Bethlehem, (another Moses allusion), Matthew tells us that the words Jeremiah are tragically fulfilled. “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Mt. 2:18). There is no way to come in the name of world changing love and there not be risks.

If we are to commit to hospitable love, there will be risks. You don’t have to be reckless, but a riskless love is no love at all. Love means risking being rejected, looking ridiculous, getting outside your comfort zone. Love means risking being taken advantage of, being under-appreciated and under-recognized. It means risking that another won’t thank you properly, won’t give the respect you deserve, won’t return love with love, or change their ways because of your generous act. Love gives without any guarantees. Just look at Jesus. Jesus loves always, regardless of the response, and it is a risky love. That is who he is. That is love.

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