Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Sermon from the Non-Christian

I did not grow up in a Christian household and while I celebrate Christmas with my wife’s family, I don’t embrace Christianity as the center of my spiritual life.
So what does Christmas mean to me?

That’s a difficult question, and not only for us “non-Christians.” Partially, it’s because more than any other religious holiday, Christmas has become an integral part of American culture. People continue to mourn the commercialization of this holiday. Charlie Brown had issues with this in 1965, yet we seem as a culture to not really care to make movements away from the shopping and gift giving.

It’s because there’s nothing really “wrong” or “bad” about giving people gifts. Yes, it can steal our attention from more important things in life but at the same time thoughtful gift giving can really help us focus on the people that we love.

Commercialism can get annoying, but let’s move past that and consider the central story of Christmas:
The Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
Let’s strip down this story for a second and take away the spiritual part of the story.
Mary gave birth to Jesus.
Christmas is a celebration of a birth. Yes, there is the layer of Parthenogenesis and what Jesus grew up to become but without those things, it is still a miraculous story.

Two Easters ago, I wrote this “Easter Sermon For the Non-Christian,” focusing on how we relate to Mary’s suffering more than Jesus’ on the cross and how there’s a powerful connection in the story of Easter to our own lives. The connection we have to Christmas is the central experience of the miracle of life.

Childbirth seems so common and unremarkable sometimes. About 350,000 babies are born every day worldwide. So what’s the big deal? People get pregnant and they have babies?  Well, it's not that simple.  

There’s a woman who tried to have a baby for ten years with her husband. They went through numerous fertility treatments, which not only cost a lot of money but also had physical and emotional tolls. They finally met their baby after the wife’s sister carried the baby to full term and delivered their baby.

Even with our modern medical technology people continue to struggle to have babies and woman continue to face childbirth with levels of risks. After talking to my brother about his wife giving birth to my niece, I realized there is nothing commonplace or insignificant about the birth of a child.

One of the things that we think about on Christmas is the impact Jesus Christ had on other people’s lives. Something I see every time I talk to a parent is how much their children change their own lives. President Obama related that the most difficult moment in his life was when his daughter Sasha was in the hospital for meningitis:
"I still shudder when I think of those three days; how my world narrowed to a single point, and how I was not interested in anything or anybody outside the four walls of that hospital room -- not my work, not my schedule, not my future."
In celebrating the birth of Jesus, we are celebrating one of the most significant human experiences. We’re taking a moment to think about this event, the birth of child and honor it not simply as a point of religious salvation, but as the center of our shared humanity.

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