At yesterday’s annual family Christmas gathering, my mom was asked to do the impossible: gather up my younger cousins and get them to sit still long enough for her to tell them the Christmas story. And, being the super woman that she is, she accomplished this task with seeming ease. She managed to capture the undivided attention of those eight rambunctious little boys and explain to them the beautiful message of Luke 2.
She closed with: “When I see those beautiful, shining lights on the Christmas tree I think of what the Bible says–‘I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people!’ I think of how Jesus came to earth so that we could all go to heaven, where everything is beautiful like a Christmas tree, all year ’round.”
The boys and I smiled, thinking of these “good tidings of great joy.” Until one of my cousins raised his hand and said, “But, if you don’t believe in Jesus, then you just go to hell.”
Now, my cousin is only 3 or 4 years old, and was undoubtedly just repeating what he’d heard from Sunday School teachers.
But his words made me think.
If what my cousin said was true, than the words of Luke 2 don’t seem very accurate. In fact, if I’m being completely honest, they seem like bullshit.
If what my cousin said was true, then Luke 2 should say, “Behold, I bring good tidings and great joy, which shall be to those of you who were lucky enough to have been born in a time and place where you got a chance to hear about Jesus. To those of you who are lucky enough to not be on your death beds in China right now, devoid of any possibly of knowing Jesus. To those of you who were lucky enough to be raised in Christian, not Muslim or Buddhist families. To those of you who weren’t unlucky enough to die as a baby, before you were old enough to understand who Jesus was, and to those of you who weren’t unlucky enough to have been born with a mental illness that prevented you from understanding Jesus. To those who were lucky enough to not have been pushed away from Christianity by the deplorable actions of Christians, and to those that were lucky enough to have found a way to reconcile faith with logic…
For unto you is born, this day, in the city of David, a Savior of the lucky ones. A Savior of the privileged few…Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, fear and shame, judgement and eternal punishment toward the unlucky ones.”
That’s not a Christmas story I can stand behind.
I have to believe that Jesus came to unlock the doors to heaven, so that all could find their way in.
I have to believe that Jesus meant it when he said that the gates of hell would not prevail against his church.
I have to believe that Jesus was truly victorious over death.
I have to believe that Jesus means good tidings and great joy.
And not just to the lucky ones.
To all people.