Muslims with Stockings. Jews with Christmas Trees.

Muslim_SantaFirst of all, as most of us (I pray) already know, neither stockings nor evergreens have anything to do with the Christmas story told in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

Isaiah never foretold stories of reindeer.  And while brown-skinned St. Nicholas of Myra worked against human trafficking – which would have pleased the Christ who sets all people free – his story has been shaped and reshaped by the likes of Coca Cola and Clement Clarke Moore.  He looked more like this than this.

So, Followers of Jesus,  let’s all confess before God and each other that few of us focus entirely on the Gospel Stories of the Birth of Jesus in this season.  We are all about Saturnalia-esque gift giving and twinkling lights.

And so this Pew Research Study is neither surprising nor disturbing:

A 2012 Pew Research survey found that roughly three-quarters of Asian-American Buddhists (76%) and Hindus (73%) celebrate Christmas. In addition, our recent survey of U.S. Jews found that about a third (32%) had a Christmas tree in their home last year. And some American Muslims celebrate both the religious and cultural aspects of Christmas

I have Muslim friends who hang stockings and say “Merry Christmas” alongside the rest of us.  In fact, when I was a parish pastor, we regularly had Muslims join us for the Christmas Eve service.  One told me that he loved to hear the story of  al-Masih.  (He wasn’t crazy, however, about the idea of a woman giving birth to God.)

Tonight, our FBC will be in an NYC cathedral for the candle-lighting Christmas Eve service with his Jewish college roommate and several other Jewish friends who attend every year, one of whom tells FBC, “It’s so beautiful, it almost makes me want to convert.”

And so we share Christmas with non-believers.  It’s what’s in our heart that matters, don’t you think?  It’s living in the way of Jesus, don’t we believe?

When Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me” I believe he wasn’t talking about church membership or the religion with which we self-identify.  I believe he was talking about whether or not we truly live in the Image of Christ.  We figure out what living in Christ’s Image looks like by studying holy texts and praying for discernment.

It’s so much easier to complain about the removal of nativity sets from Guantanamo than it is turn the other cheek or withhold judgment or give sacrificially.  What if we sought to learn something holy from friends of other faiths or no faith?  God uses everything and every one.

May Christ enter our hearts today and throughout the New Year.

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