Billions across the earth celebrate the birth of a child. Some doubt the accuracy of factual details of the event. Others question on the nature of the child and the circumstances of his conception. Centuries of scholarship and spiritual contemplation failed to resolve different interpretations of the child’s purpose and of his eventual actions as an adult.
Nearly everyone can agree, however, on one thing. Whether you are a Christian, Muslim, or Jew, whether you follow Buddhist, Hindu, or no religious teachings at all, we can all agree on this specific aspect of the life of the man known as Jesus.
Early in his ministry, this wandering rabbi preached a message to the people. He preached from the hilltops and from the valleys. His message resonated with every person largely because other prophets had preached the same wisdom throughout the centuries. And in 21st century America, this message rings especially true.
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
Jesus lived in a world where the privileged held reign over the oppressed. He foresaw a time when all their wealth, power, and military might could not prevent their eventual downfall.
Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.
Jesus called out the hypocrites, the policy makers who dined in fine style while the poor made do with the scraps. He preached fairness and equity for all the people.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.
The arrogant leaders, distant from the faith and dedication of the people, thought they controlled the truth. Jesus did not mock or threaten others to serve as an inspirational leader.
Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
Truth is not whatever reality most benefits you. Truth is truth. Jesus showed that true leadership consists of honesty, openness, and candor regardless of the consequences.
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
Jesus spoke truth to power, never backing away from the challenges of scribes and Pharisees. He never sold his principles for comfort, advantage, or influence.
Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
The Golden Rule is the single most universal ethical belief of humanity. Jesus lived this ethic and taught others to do the same.
Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you.
Hold people accountable, but always do so with love and understanding. Jesus held malice in his heart for no one and yet stood on the side of love opposed to all oppressive authority.
Near the end of his ministry, Jesus demonstrated that we cannot achieve justice passively, and that we must sometimes meet oppression with active resistance. Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying…he said, “My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers.”
After his active resistance to the corrupt bankers and priests, Jesus taught in the temple and healed those who came to him seeking cures. He told the crowds that the scribes and Pharisees tie up heavy, hard to bear burdens and lay them on the shoulders of others to carry. They exalt themselves, claiming great deeds and the best seats in the synagogue. Jesus called them blind guides and fools, for they valued the gold and not the sanctuary that made the gold sacred. Instead of tithing, Jesus called on the self-indulgent and greedy to practice justice, mercy, and faith.
Prophecy. Christmas celebrates a world-changing event in the past. But Christmas also commemorates the spirit of the man born under that star. Christmas proclaims the message of brotherhood and sisterhood among all people, and compassion for every person, whether poor or sick, hungry or hated.
So, honor the wonder of birth this Christmas season. May you see in every child the promise of a great life of service, a great love of others. Honor the child – wherever and whenever born – as the symbol of hope for billions born into poverty and oppression. Then, honor the person that child then grew and now grows to be; the one who then taught and will now teach the beatitudes of unconditional love; and who will always sacrifice everything to show us the meaning of justice, of mercy, and of faith. May we honor those teachings every day of the year and find the courage to stand up publicly for those principles.