By Dan Linrud
The Christmas gifts were given with smiles and the words, “I love you.” The gifts flowed and the words seemed to come easy. But the words were difficult hear. The generous actions harder yet to internalize. Of course, the gifts were welcome. But the incongruence of those words and gifts with the general context was striking.
My family unit of origin was very “expressive.” The typical vicious verbal barbs, ridiculing rants and harsh actions of our family toward each other was disparate from the warm glow of the sparkling Christmas tree, shiny gifts and loving expressions. It made a time like Christmas especially difficult to make sense of.
Don’t get me wrong: I loved my family. But it hurt to be part of my family.
This has been some people’s experience with the church, as well. The very place that should be a place of encouraging, supportive love, was a place of judgmental attitude, biting criticism and marginalizing actions. A place for loving where some have experienced more hurting.
Family, whether in our familial units or church, was never supposed to be this way. They were to be places of light, joy and hope. This time of year we give special focus to the One who came to restore His family and heal His Church.
The gospel of John 1:1-5, 10-14, NLT, gives the broadest context to Christmas (which literally means “Christ-celebration”):
In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.
So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
THIS is love. JESUS. God becoming man through the humility of human birth. Self-sacrifice. Light extinguishing darkness.
Jesus was “full of unfailing love and faithfulness.” This is the description that Jesus desires for you and me. The mission of the Church is reflecting Jesus’ love. This requires establishing healthy boundaries, no longer tolerating hurtful attitudes and behaviors, whether in our families of origin or in our church families. It calls for fostering a safe atmosphere of loving Jesus and others.