When people say “Keep Christ in Christmas,”
usually I’m annoyed.
Because usually it is meant as, “Keep Jesus — his miraculous birth, his lordship, his savior-ing — as the Reason for why we celebrate Christmas.” But I think the holiday of Christmas has simply grown in to something much greater and more inclusive than this (and I think that’s a good thing).
That being said, I can empathize with people’s frustration. I can feel the sense of loss (or the fear of loss) present in the person who sticks this bumper sticker on their van or hangs this sign on their house. They don’t want their annual celebration of the birth of the central person in their religious world to be co-opted by cookies and commercialism and candy canes.
But one of my problems with this saying is how it conflates “Jesus” with “Christ.” In other words, I think most people assume that “Jesus,” “Christ,” and “Jesus Christ” are all synonymous. However, this isn’t the case.
To say Jesus is to name an historical person born in Nazareth who grew up to be a roaming rabbi and inspired a movement where people lived with more radical hospitality, grace, mercy, compassion, and so on.
To say Christ is to name a way in which early Christians spoke of the Divine Presence in all things and all people.
Christ is a word that speaks to the transcendent within. It is a way of pointing to the reality that all things are soaked in the love of God. (For more on this, check out Richard Rohr’s newest book, The Universal Christ).
If we properly understand what it means to say Christ, then I’m all in on this idea of “Keeping Christ in Christmas.”
Except, well, I guess the “keep” part still needs tweaking, because saying “keep” implies that something has been lost or missing or is possibly going away.
Christ — a metaphor for the Divine Presence in all things and all people — cannot not be present. There is no place to escape God, there is no place where Christ is not. You cannot lose the transcendent within, so you do not need to worry about keeping it.
Therefore, I suggest we amend this saying and consider the following:
See the Christ throughout Christmas.
In other words, as the season of Christmas begins, with all sorts of events and entertainment, stores and sales, projects and parties and people clamoring for our attention, may we find moments to remember to see the Christ in every thing and every one.
May we remember to see the Divine Presence is just as much in you as it is in me, as it is in our annoying and judgy family members,
as it is in the president and Lindsey Graham and Rudy Giuliani,
as it is in the hindu, the muslim, the atheist,
as it is in the homeless, the wealthy,
the single mom, the divorced dad,
the queer and the basic,
as it is in the hectic retail clerk and the online sales rep who screwed up your order,
as it is in the traffic jams and the road trips.
If there is Divine Presence and Divine Love anywhere, then it is everywhere.
And this is Christ.
May we have eyes to see it in even the most unlikely of places… such as a back ally birth of a poor Jewish boy to a teenage mom surrounded by livestock.
(For more on this topic, here’s a talk I gave called, “See Christ Throughout Christmas,” that suggests maybe it’s less about the birth of Jesus and more about the incarnation of Christ.)