Nativity, Defined

Photo by Grand Canyon NPS via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Nativitythe process whereby someone becomes a native.

Christmas is one of the most confusing holiday’s on the planet. It’s half religious and half a celebration of solstice. The secular vs. religious scales have tipped back and forth over millennia.

That’s a historically accurate tension.

If you are feeling it this year. Welcome. You are in good company. Grab a glass of eggnog.

Some people think that Christmas is a religious holiday that’s been ruined by secularization. In fact, it’s a secular holiday that’s religious people have tried to hijack since the 3rd century when Rome turned to Jesus.

Sometimes Christmas is about revelry. And sometimes it’s about Jesus. Right now it’s a little bit of both, isn’t it?

Centuries ago, Christians strategically capitalized on a holiday which felt like it had something to do with the incarnation of Jesus. Every pagan group in Europe had celebrated some variety of a multi-day winter solstice festival, some marked by the giving of gifts, and as Christianity became the dominant religion in the area we just tried to rebrand it as being all about Jesus.

Every element of our modern Christmas celebration is irreligious and about revelry. The tree, the carols, Santa Claus, the yule log, the Christmas parties, the gifts, the traditional foods, family togetherness. These are all pagan festivities we’ve adopted into a pseudo-Christian hybrid holiday we call Christmas.

The tension you feel is because tension is the intention of the season.

Imagine how it must have felt as Jesus stepped out of heaven and into the arms of a teenage mother? Uninvited game changer. He ruined the reputation of a young woman. He entered the world as a family disgrace. And the political powers didn’t like who people said he was to become so they had every boy his age killed. Like it or not… Jesus’ arrival changed everything. His process of coming here was just as messy as the messiness you feel at a family Christmas celebration this December.

That is nativity at it’s core. The process of becoming a native. Uncomfortable. Foreign. Out of place. Contradiction. Frustration.

And just like Jesus dealt with the tension and contradiction of becoming a native, he asks us to do the same by doing things which seem counter-intuitive. Instead of Good News being about us, Jesus asks us to be Good News to our neighbors. Instead of Good News something we privately keep to ourselves, Jesus asks us to live a life worthy of sharing. Instead of living a life about our family, Jesus invites us into a community of new family.

There’s a lot of tension in this season we call Christmas. It is by design. The tension you are feeling is the tension of bringing Good News into a broken world.

Ask yourself today, “How am I being Good News today to my neighbors? What can I do to be Good News to the family next door?



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One response to “Nativity, Defined”

  1. Shannon Avatar

    Wow Adam. If one didn’t feel tension before reading this, there’s no way to avoid it now. Stop. Think. and Go forth into the tension and embrace it. Then use it to motivate you out of your comfort zone to show people who Jesus is. Who he truly is.

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