MAHONING VALLEY DISTRICT
Our Christmas Story
The beaming sisters informed me they were hoping for American Girl dolls for Christmas that year. Their mother’s heart was clearly heavy as she added, “Yes, they know those dolls are expensive, so they asked Santa.” I had no help for her.
Sometimes I join the kids in wishing that the Santa story were the main Christmas story. It’s so simple: all the good kids get presents, so all you have to do is be good enough. A kind man works some kind of magic to deliver presents to everyone while we sleep. The gifts we open bring us joy so love spreads across the world. It’s so simple and so easy and asks nothing of us other than sleep and good behavior.
But that’s not our Christmas story. Our Christmas story is raw and demanding.
Centuries of revering Mary’s virginal compliance blind us to the scorn of a poor pregnant unwed mother. What response does Mary ask of me when poor pregnant unwed mothers show up at my church? Are they even bothering to come to my church?
It is lovely to set Mary’s song in Luke 1 to music and celebrate God’s greatness with her. It is rather terrifying to ask what might happen to us when God “pull[s] the powerful down from their thrones” because of how dependent our lives are on those political and financial systems. If “the rich [are being sent] away empty-handed,” do we even want to compare our personal spending on Christmas gifts to our generosity to those in need?
As I contemplate the Holy Family seeking shelter because a distant emperor wanted to collect more taxes, I can’t help but wonder how many Lordstown GM and supplier families are wondering how they’ll care for the baby on the way, or the ones already born. I wonder how many people in Bethlehem shared our helplessness of being unable to either make room or change the system.
Somewhere along the way “church” became synonymous with “respectable” for some folks. Would the shepherds be let in to sing with us the song the angels sang to them first?
Herod makes such an easy villain that it’s easy for us to forget the Holy Family were refugees who fled for their lives to a foreign country. There are no quick or easy answers to immigration and foreign policy questions, but the Christmas story demands we imagine our Lord as a babe in arms at the border.
Elves who make toys without needing money are a heck of a lot more fun.
But elves stay at the North Pole, while Santa mysteriously drops off presents without even saying hello. Our Christmas story is about a God who chooses to come be in the hot mess with us and sticks around. (That’s an accurate translation of John 1, right?) It is about common and ordinary people who said yes to God when the powerful people said no. Our Christmas story reveals to us that God is not Caesar and Caesar is not God—that God is not angry, demanding, and distant, but loving, giving, and close enough to touch. It tells us that God’s coming is not cause for fear but rejoicing. Our Christmas story is not one of toys for some, but of peace for all. It offers help to the parents
who can’t afford the wishlist toys because it tells us our worth is not in possessions and sets us on a path of dignity, equity, and justice for all people.
Santa comes once a year but, “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
Shine the Christmas light and tell the Christmas story.
The Mahoning Valley District Office:
Rev. Abby Auman
4580 Canfield Rd, PO Box 11260 Youngstown OH 44511
Office Hours: Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
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